Quick, give me a list of list of successful high technology executives who went on to become super successful in other fields. Stumped? I don’t blame you, the list is very small as near as I can figure. That’s among the reasons why Sheldon Adelson’s story is so remarkable. Sheldon was in the news recently as the man behind the opening of the $2.4 billion Venetian casino in China’s Macao.
Adelson’s story starts as the hardscrabble son of taxi driver in Boston’s Dorchester (think The Departed instead of genteel Back Bay), travels forward to become a – big gasp – technology publisher of Datacom User, and onwards to start up the Interface Group that finally cashed in on the now also departed (but not in the way that Jack Nicholson’s character did the departing in the movie) Comdex trade show. See my Comdex Remembered column from last December.
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 #3 on the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans.
I haven’t interviewed Sheldon for years. Not since the Comdex days. But I remember he always seemed upset that at Comdex all the media attention tended to focus on the high tech execs such as Bill Gates rather than the guy who figured out how to not only 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.
Anyways, as I said at the start I am hard pressed to come up 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 in our not being able to figure out who really was the smartest guy at Comdex.
Okay, I asked around a bit and two 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 ain’t no Sheldon.
Bill Gates. Okay, Bill is doing the long goodbye at Microsoft and is embarked on the noble goal of ridding the world of dread disease. His record at Microsoft can’t be disputed. The jury is still out on his ability to change the world with his billions being poured into worthy causes.