Tuesday, January 12, 2021

8 Days to a Fresh Start: No Tears for Adelson

 I shed no tears at the passing of Sheldon Adelson, reputed to be among the richest people on earth. I don’t begrudge him that achievement, but use of his wealth to underwrite and perpetuate radical conservative politicians and ideas in the United States and Israel made him to me a persona non grata. His financial backings girded Donald Trump, Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu and right wing politicians as they undermined democratic values in their respective countries.

My antipathy toward Adelson harks back to 1986 when I first met him. At the time, he headed up The Interface Group, the producer of COMDEX, the computer industry’s biggest exposition. COMDEX  attracted some 100,000 conventioneers to Las Vegas. With rare exception, attendees had to book their plane and hotel reservations through COMDEX. The turnkey program was a big moneymaker.

With a convention system structured around Las Vegas in place, Interface cast about for another conference theme. The National Housewares Manufacturers Association had recently scrapped its second annual show in July in Chicago. It opted to hold one show a year in January in Chicago. Interface, meaning Adelson, decided to pounce on the opportunity to outmuscle the housewares association. It proposed a show in Las Vegas in August.

To jumpstart his idea, Adelson came a-courting to Lebhar-Friedman’s corporate offices in New York. Together with Chain Store Age General Merchandise Trends, of which I was editor and publisher, our three other retail publications in the discount store, drug store and home center fields were important media for anyone who wanted to reach housewares industry influentials, both at the retailer and vendor levels.

During a meeting with publishers and editors, Adelson could hardly have been less congenial. He wasn’t used to anyone questioning his proposals. Instead of listening to our ideas, he forcefully told us how he would upend the industry, how buyers and sellers would flock to Las Vegas regardless of how hot the town could be in August. By the end of the meeting, our two camps were as divided as the North and South after Lincoln’s election.

The show was a disaster. Though scheduled to run three days, exhibitors started tearing down booths in the middle of the second day, a violation of protocol of any trade show. They could hardly be blamed, for there was virtually no retailer traffic. No one wanted to come to Las Vegas in 110 degree heat.

I didn’t really care as Gilda had joined me for her first trip to Las Vegas. It meant more time we could spend together. When the vendors started folding up their tents, they also started selling floor samples. We bought a 12-inch heavy metal skillet we still use, a constant reminder of Adelson’s flaming out in the sun.

Adelson took it all in stride, never held another housewares show, subsequently sold COMDEX and parlayed the proceeds into casino holdings in Vegas and around the globe. While I regret his political donations, he also used his vast resources to underwrite medical research.

Adelson’s passing marks the crumbling of another foundational pillar that contributed to the building of the Trump empire, economically and politically. 

It has been a traumatic week for Trump. Pillar by pillar Trump is being abandoned. After four years of sycophancy, Vice President Mike Pence last Wednesday chose to honor the Constitution rather than Trump’s unfounded and illegal attempt to undermine the validity of the November presidential election.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook jettisoned his accounts on their social media platforms because of his insistence the election was rigged and his fanning the flames of insurrection that led to the storming of the Capitol. Other tech companies have suspended his ability to use alternate social media sites.

Trump’s longtime financial lifeline, Deutsche Bank, has decided to end its decades-long relationship. No more new business, but Trump still owes it some $300 million due in the next few years. Trump also lost Signature Bank as a financial partner.

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal and New York Post said he should resign.

PGA America rescinded holding the PGA Championship golf tournament at Trump’s Bedminster, NJ, golf club in May 2022. 

Bill Belichick, coach ot the New England Patriots, declined to receive from him a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Under penalty of dismissal, Cumulus Media, the second largest radio network with 416 stations, ordered its on-air talent, including right-wing talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro, to stop spreading misinformation about election fraud and any suggestion that “infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever.” 

The cascade of defections from Trump and his Republican enablers shows no signs of abating.