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Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is on the rampage again, suing a Wall Street Journal reporter for libel. John L. Smith has been there, and he tells us how it nearly cost him everything.
Adelson sued me into bankruptcy over a brief passage in my 2005 book, Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and Current Kings of Las Vegas. It was an enormously stressful experience that came at the most difficult time in my life.
Although I wouldn’t claim to have gained much insight into Adelson’s character during the fight, I immediately learned he wasn’t shy about hitting you when you’re down. On the contrary.
He sued me (and my publisher) while my then-8-year-old daughter Amelia was suffering from brain cancer, which had metastasized to her spine. She was literally fighting for her life. I learned of the impending litigation while at her bedside at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
With the book’s diminutive publisher Barricade Books immediately trying to settle in an unsuccessful effort to avoid its own bankruptcy reorganization, it was defense through appeasement—the worst possible strategy when dealing with a billionaire bully. Barricade offered to print a correction or a retraction, but every offer was rebuffed.
Sensing weakness, Adelson’s attorney pushed on with the lawsuit. By 2007, we were exhausted. Adelson offered to place $200,000 in a medical and education account for my daughter’s benefit, in exchange for me signing an onerous and untrue letter of apology. I also couldn’t disclose the account’s existence to my bosses at the Las Vegas Review-Journal where I was, and still am, a columnist. Needless to say, I rejected the offer.
[Photo: Kin Cheung/AP]