What happens at Las Vegas Sands …

April 27, 2010

Las Vegas has done a lot over the years to spiff up its image. But one thing it hasn’t quite been able to shake: The picture of the casino exec living large on the shareholder’s dime.

Last week we looked at MGM Mirage (MGM) and its lavish pay for lackluster performance. This week, we turn to Las Vegas Sands (LVS), where the company and its board clearly know how to sweat the small stuff — while paying out the big bucks to select high-rollers in the corner office.

Chairman and Chief Executive Sheldon G. Adelson made $5.6 million in 2009, including $1 million in cash and $1.8 million in stock options, according to the proxy the company filed on Friday. But look a little closer, and you’ll see that the biggest single chunk of his pay falls under “other compensation” — the home of perks like tax-prep assistance and personal security.

And sure enough, true to Las Vegas stereotype, security for himself and his family is the biggest chunk of that — a whopping $2.45 million. The proxy doesn’t go into detail, so we can only imagine that he has a phalanx of full-time body-guards in his entourage; at $150,000 a year for the upper end of the scale, he could keep 15 employed full-time with enough left over to buy them all sharp suits and shades.

Adelson also got “the full-time and exclusive use of an automobile and a driver of his choice,” at $163,812, “the annual reimbursement of professional fees of $100,000,” and the use of Sands-casino gyms and even dry-cleaning services — price-tag omitted, but no doubt priceless for the well-groomed gaming chief. We haven’t seen dry-cleaning mentioned as a perk since Jack Welch’s divorce proceeding.

And then there are the home repairs.

“The Company also permits its executive officers to use Company personnel for home repairs during business hours on a limited basis. The Company requires that these executives reimburse it in full for these services. There is no incremental cost to the Company for any of these benefits.”

It’s no doubt heartening to shareholders that the company can spare its workmen during business hours without losing money on the deal. But the best news for Sands executives may be that the company stands by its employees’ work. Robert G. Goldstein, Sands’ executive vice-president, had work done on his house in 2008 by a subsidiary of the company and, sadly, it wasn’t up to snuff.

“Mr. Goldstein believed, and the Company acknowledged, that some of the work was not performed in an appropriate manner. The matter was referred to an independent expert, who concurred about the quality of the work and concluded that Mr. Goldstein should not be obligated to pay the $0.4 million incurred by the Company for costs and overhead on the job. These findings have been accepted by the Company and Mr. Goldstein.”

If all this sounds like a lot of distractions for a company that styles itself the “leading global developer of integrated resorts,” not to worry: the Sands is outsourcing other non-core operations, including part of its corporate plane fleet — to its own CEO.

Sands and Adelson swapped aircraft throughout 2009, with Sands paying Interface Operations LLC — a company controlled by Adelson and his wife — some $1.2 million to rent its Boeing Business Jet, Gulfstream G-III and Gulfstream G-IV; at the same time, Interface paid Sands $652,114 to rent its three Gulfstream G-IVs, a Gulfstream G-V and two Boeing 737s. Meanwhile, Interface Bermuda Ltd., controlled by Sheldon Adelson, collected $6.1 million from Sands for the use of its two Boeing 747 aircraft. Net to Adelson entities: $7.45 million.

The more we think about it, the more it strikes us that all of Vegas’s various reputations may fit the bill: When it comes to customers’ money, what happens in Vegas sure does seem to stay in Vegas. And that new family-friendly atmosphere? It’s there all right — but it sure helps to belong to the right families.

Image source: Nevada Tumbleweed via Flickr.

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