Sheldon Adelson, who died at 87, was a supporter of Republican causes, including outgoing US President Donald Trump

Washington (AFP) - Billionaire casino magnate and donor to Republican and Jewish causes Sheldon Adelson has died of cancer, his company said on Tuesday, eliciting tributes from two of the leaders he staunchly supported, US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Adelson’s death was confirmed on Tuesday by Las Vegas Sands, the company with which he built a casino empire sprawling from Las Vegas to the Chinese territory of Macau.

“Our founder and visionary leader, Sheldon G. Adelson, passed away last night at the age of 87 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” the company said in a statement.

Adelson last week took a leave of absence for cancer treatment from Las Vegas Sands, with chief operating Officer Robert Goldstein replacing him in an acting capacity, the company said.

One of the richest men in the world, Adelson was a prominent supporter of Trump and well-known in the American business community, which has been cutting ties with the president or backing away from politics, at least temporarily, after last week’s attack on the US Capitol.

The deadly assault on Congress came after Trump addressed a crowd of his supporters in Washington and urged them to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of Biden’s victory in the November 3 presidential election.

Adelson made no statement about the events at the Capitol before his death, spokesman Ron Reese told AFP.

But he was a prominent supporter of the president, appearing alongside Trump wearing a distinctive red “Keep America Great” cap.

The New York Times reported that he donated $220 million to the president’s failed reelection campaign last year, as well as to other Republican politicians.

“His ingenuity, genius, and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name,” Trump said in a statement. “Sheldon was also a staunch supporter of our great ally the State of Israel.”

“Sheldon Adelson’s life represents the best of the American dream,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Tuesday, while Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called him a “remarkable American.”

- From America to Israel -

Adelson rose to become one of the richest men on the planet thanks to his sprawling chain of casinos, and as of Tuesday, Forbes estimated his net worth at $35 billion.

“He was a wonderful friend to us personally and an incredible champion of the Jewish people, the Jewish state and the alliance between Israel and America,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

In the US, Adelson fiercely opposed former Democratic president Barack Obama and made no apologies for putting his wealth to use for causes he cared about.

In 2012, he told Forbes magazine he was “against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it.”

Former US president George W. Bush, a Republican, called Adelson an “American patriot, a generous benefactor of charitable causes and a strong supporter of Israel.”

“Sheldon battled his way out of a tough Boston neighborhood to build a successful enterprise that loyally employed tens of thousands – and entertained millions,” Bush said.

- The party changed -

Much changed in the Republican Party in the eight-year gap between the presidencies of Bush, who left office in 2009, and Trump.

Many American companies view the outgoing president’s comments before his supporters marched to the Capitol, disrupting the process of certifying Biden’s election win, as going too far.

Hotel giant Marriott, health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield and financial services company American Express said they would stop making donations to Republican lawmakers who tried to halt the certification.

JPMorgan Chase said it was halting donations to candidates from both parties, as was Facebook, Microsoft and Google – meaning Democrats who are set to narrowly control both houses of Congress will not necessarily gain an advantage from the pause.