LV Sands’ Leven to Retire

Michael Leven (l.), the president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., has announced he will retire at the end of the year, initiating an executive search by the company’s board. A succession plan will be critical to company’s future success.

Rumors refuted that Adelson will shed CEO title

Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced that Michael Leven, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will retire at the end of 2014. The company has initiated a search for a new president.

Leven, 76, has been LVS president and COO since 2009, and a company director since 2004. He is second-in-command to Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, and also serves as a director of the company’s subsidiary Sands China Ltd., and as an officer of several other LVS subsidiaries.

The announcement set off speculation concerning the continuing role of the company’s operation of Adelson, the 80-year-old CEO and majority shareholder of the operator. An article in the Wall Street Journal quoted anonymous company sources in saying that Adelson was considering ceding his CEO title to the new president if needed to draw the right candidate for the new executive post.

LVS quickly denied the newspaper’s report, with Adelson himself saying in a statement that he has no plans of reducing his own duties or relinquishing his CEO title. “As the supposed Mark Twain quote goes, the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” Adelson said. “I am as bullish about this company as I’ve ever been, and I have no plans of slowing down or passing the CEO title or job to anyone.

“We have taken an important leadership position in the gaming and hospitality industry, and I plan on spending year after year building on that success. Whether it’s driving financial results, working with governments to open up new markets, securing new development opportunities in emerging markets, spearheading regulatory compliance or anything else, I am intently focused on building on the momentum we have established over the past several years.”

According to LVS, the company’s board is forming a committee to oversee the search for a new president and chief operating officer, and will recommend a candidate to the board for its approval.

Adelson thanked Leven for his service in the statement. “On behalf of the entire LVS family, I want to convey our deepest appreciation for Mike’s tireless work and dedication during his tenure,” he said. “Mike started in this role at one of the most challenging times in our company’s history, and we appreciate his efforts and leadership in helping LVS experience unprecedented success as we’ve grown.”

“I’m grateful to Sheldon and his family for allowing me to help him lead the company during such a tremendous period of growth,” said Leven. “I’ve enjoyed working with the finest team in the industry and look forward to continuing to serve the company, its shareholders and its team members from my position on the board of directors. For me, this is truly a storybook ending to a more than 50-year career in the hospitality industry. I wouldn’t want it to end any other way.”

Adelson concluded by saying he planned to push his leadership team to achieve even greater success in the years ahead.

“We have developed a strong track record for securing the most coveted new development opportunities in our business and returning capital to our shareholders at a pace never before seen in our industry. I’m not going to let that change, not even for a second,” he said.

Leven will continue to serve on the board of Sands China Ltd. after his retirement.

The announcement of Leven’s retirement has once again fueled industry speculation concerning the succession plan, or lack thereof, for the operator following Adelson’s run, which has seen the company rise from near disaster in the recession to the top of the industry, defining the modern Macau market and the new market in Singapore along the way.

Executives once seen as likely successors to Adelson, such as Bill Weidner and Steve Jacobs, left the company under acrimonious terms, with former Macau CEO Jacobs filing a wrongful-termination suit against LVS.

One possible successor could be LVS’ president of gaming operations, Rob Goldstein, who, along with Weidner and Brad Stone, formed the team that built and operated the Venetians in Las Vegas and Macau. Goldstein remained with the company after Weidner and Stone departed to form Global Gaming Asset Management in 2008.