Quick, give me a list of successful high technology executives who went on to become super-successful in other fields. Stumped? I dont blame you—the list is very small.
Thats among the reasons why Sheldon Adelsons story is so remarkable. Sheldon was in the news recently as the man behind the opening of the $2.4 billion Venetian casino in Chinas Macau.
Sheldons story starts as the hardscrabble son of a taxi driver in Bostons Dorchester section (think "The Departed" instead of genteel Back Bay), travels forward as he becomes a —big gasp—technology publisher (of Datacom User), and onward as he starts the Interface Group that finally cashed in on the now-also-departed—but not in the way that Jack Nicholsons character did the departing in the movie—Comdex trade show. (See my "Comdex Remembered" column from last December on eweek.com.)
But unlike many high-tech execs who take the ride to the top and then all the way to the bottom hoping that things will get better, Sheldon got out when the getting was good. He took his money, invested it in gambling—which is far more of a sure thing than high tech—and, after making a couple billion in Vegas, is on his way to repeat the whole thing in a much bigger way in China. He is now No. 3 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.
I havent interviewed Sheldon for years, not since the Comdex days. But I remember he always seemed upset that all the media attention at Comdex tended to focus on the high-tech execs such as Bill Gates, rather than the guy who not only figured out how to give the execs a platform but also figured out a way to get hundreds of companies to cough up many thousands of dollars to send thousands of employees for an all-expense-paid week in Las Vegas. Those were the days.
The most influential people follow their own paths. Click here to read more.
Anyway, as I said at the start, I am hard-pressed to come up with a high-tech exec who has come even near the success of Sheldon in another field beyond technology. I guess it proves that Sheldon was right in his grumpiness with the media for our not being able to figure out who really was the smartest guy at Comdex.
OK, I asked around a bit and a few names came up.
Mark Cuban, who sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $6 billion and then went on to buy and run the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban is a smart guy, but he aint no Sheldon.
Bill Gates. Bill is doing the long goodbye at Microsoft and is embarked on the noble goal of ridding the world of dreaded diseases. His record at Microsoft cant be disputed. The jury is still out on his ability to change the world with his billions being poured into worthy causes. By the way, this column is an expanded version of a previous blog. For additional blog entries by me, please go here.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management.