William Weidner, former president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp, testifies, Wednesday, April 10, 2013 in Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. Weidner, who headed Las Vegas Sands Corp. for almost 14 years gave blistering testimony Wednesday against his former boss, Sheldon Adelson (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff Scheid) LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LAS VEGAS SUN OUT
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Most fired employees can only dream about detailing their former boss’s missteps and mistreatment in open court.
Williams Weidner, who was second in command at Las Vegas Sands Corp. for 14 years, got the chance Wednesday, and he appeared to relish the opportunity to tell a jury what it was like to work for casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Speaking energetically, but without the jokes and asides that characterized Adelson’s testimony earlier this week, Weidner said the 79-year-old Sands CEO had treated him poorly, sought to silence him, and nearly drove his own company to bankruptcy.
This is the second time the breach-of-contract case brought by a Hong Kong businessman has played out in a Las Vegas court. The jury decided against Sands in 2008, but the verdict was tossed on appeal.
Weidner’s testimony was the first wild card in what has so far been a rehash of the first trial. That’s because Weidner, 68, was still employed by Sands when he testified in 2008.
He was also president and chief operating officer at Sands in the early 2000s when Richard Suen claims he helped the company enter the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.
Suen says Sands stiffed him for his work. Sands says Suen didn’t actually proffer any help.
During the first trial, Adelson called Weidner a liar and said he had exaggerated the positive outcome of a meeting Suen arranged with Chinese officials.
He testified Wednesday that in 2009, months before he left Sands, he asked the board to allow him to attempt to rescue the company without interference from Adelson, whom he accused of mismanagement. Among the reasons he cited for his lack of trust was the original breach-of-contract case.
“I had lost confidence in him because he had this trial. This trial was injurious to relations in China; it should have never been in a courtroom like this,” he said.
Weidner said the board initially begged him to stay but Adelson, who eventually bailed out the company with $1 billion of his own money, pressured the board to ask for his resignation.
Weidner said he resigned and then was fired for cause by Adelson, who offered him a severance package worth $20 million to $60 million. He walked away from it because of a clause that would have prohibited him from saying negative things about Adelson, a major GOP donor whom Forbes ranks as the ninth richest American.
“He did not treat me well,” said Weidner, who is expected to return to the stand Thursday afternoon.
Sands spokesman Ron Reese could not be reached for comment on Weidner’s testimony.
On Monday, Adelson walked back his earlier comments about Weidner telling lies and said the antipathy between them had “dissipated.”
The baby-faced executive plays a key role in the $328 million breach-of-contract case because he signed a 2001 letter offering Suen $5 million plus 2 percent of the profits from Macau, a former Portuguese colony that has become the world’s biggest gambling market.
It’s unclear exactly what Suen was supposed to do to hold up his end of the bargain.
Asked Monday what contributions Suen had made to the company, Adelson replied, “Zero.”
In one of several direct contradictions of Adelson’s testimony, Weidner said Suen had in fact provided valuable help and deserved compensation.
Sands is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department in connection with a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Steven Jacobs, the former CEO of Sands China. Jacobs has attended much of this month’s Suen trial.
Asked why he hadn’t attempted to recover some of his severance, Weidner, who now runs his own company, said he didn’t want to become another former business associate suing Sands for some of its riches.
“I didn’t want to be Jacobs. I didn’t want to be Suen,” he said.