Ever since I began studying the events industry in college, my friends in more conventional fields like finance, tech, and real estate would tell me there isn’t any money to be made as an events professional. In the early years when events was still an elusive concept to me, and when I had no clue yet as to the extent of the events industry nor what place I wanted to have within it, I just went along with these conversations thinking I’ll find something, someway, someday that would make it work.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that even many people within the events industry consider the industry to be one where there is no potential for making great wealth; to which I say, we need to broaden our definitions of what it means to be an events professional. As we’ve explored over many many examples here on Eventful World Media, there are people who have taken a core expertise in event management and applied it to massive fields such as international sports, such as industry conventions, such as conference brands and leagues and even a niche within real estate of developing and managing massive events infrastructure like stadiums and arenas and performance arts centers and convention centers. One such person, and someone who I now use as the example to anyone who says nobody can make money starting out in the events industry, is Sheldon Adelson.
Sheldon Adelson is one of the less than a hundred people anywhere in the world with a personal net worth in the 11 figures. In most years he maintains a fairly low profile, but in election years people tend to know him for his infamously influential donations to candidates of the Republican Party. Sheldon Adelson is the Chairman of the Sands Corporation and is generally known as a casino magnate. To the hospitality industry, he is perhaps known a bit more specifically as someone who has made most of his wealth in Asia with his investments in Singapore and Macau. But what many people seem to forget these days, is that Adelson’s wealth came originally from his pioneering work in the events industry.
Before the Consumer Electronics Show monopolized the category of technology convention, there was a very influential annual trade show for the computer industry called the COMDEX. COMDEX stood for Computer Developers’ Expo, and was a show that ran from 1979 all the way to the early 2000s. Sheldon Adelson may have made tens of billions of dollars from his casinos, but the first half billion of his wealth he made by founding the COMDEX show, operating it for nearly 2 decades, and selling it to a Japanese conglomerate in 1995 for $500 million. Five years after he sold, the dot com bubble bursted, and by 2003 the brand was dead in a ditch.
Meanwhile, Adelson took the wealth he made throughout his COMDEX years to buy the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and build the Sands Expo convention center right across the street from it. At the time, the Sands Expo was the first and only convention center anywhere in the country to be privately owned and operated, and even today is one of the few. While Adelson may be known popularly to have made most of his money as a casino magnate, his real pioneering contribution to shaping the Las Vegas we know today is that he was the first resorts operator in town to have focused on making Vegas a convention city destination.
See you at the next exploration!