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Sheldon Adelson, Father of Comdex IT Mega-Show, Passes Away

“When Sheldon recruited me he told me was going to be shaking the hands of presidents and prime ministers around the world. He said, ‘Come with me, it’s going to be a helluva ride,’” said Jason Chudnofsky, who worked side by side with Adelson for 16 years. “Shockingly, he was right.”

Sheldon Adelson, who founded the first IT industry mega-show, Comdex, has passed away.

Adelson, 87, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., passed away on January 11 from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin‘s Lymphoma, according to a statement from casino resort development company.

Comdex—which was started in 1979 and ran until 2003—was the first IT mega-show, attracting at its peak more than 200,000 attendees and thousands of exhibitors to Las Vegas each November.

An acronym for Computer Dealer’s Exhibition, Comdex was a must-attend event and an annual rite of passage for channel leaders and industry executives.

Jason Chudnofsky, former president of The Interface Group, which owned and operated Comdex, recalled being recruited by Adelson in the early eighties.

“When Sheldon recruited me he told me was going to be shaking the hands of presidents and prime ministers around the world. He said, ‘Come with me, it’s going to be a helluva ride,’” said Chudnofsky, who worked side by side with Adelson for 16 years. “Shockingly, he was right.”

Adelson and his Interface Group partners sold Comdex to Softbank Corp., a Japanese technology conglomerate, in 1995.

Adelson moved on from there to build a casino empire that started with buying the Sands Hotel and Casino–the famous hangout of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack with fellow entertainers Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.–and then expanding internationally into Macao and Singapore. “Sheldon knew he was going to be a big Las Vegas player,” said Chudnofsky.

As for Comdex, Adelson saw the technology industry exploding and knew that it was the right forum for the fast-growing IT industry, said Chudnofsky.

“Comdex and the IT industry were connected at the hip, and Sheldon knew they would grow together,” said Chudnofsky. “Sheldon used to say that as long as the IT industry was growing, so would Comdex. He saw it before CES. He understood need, desire and affordability. He knew for sure that the industry needed a place to meet on an annual or biannual basis. He knew if he went around the world and gave people a taste of it with smaller Comdex events, they would come to Las Vegas.”

John Iacone, the founder and CEO of International Integrated Solutions (IIS), Plainview, N.Y.-based solution provider, recalled doing booth duty as a young engineer for a New York reseller in the early eighties. “You had to be at Comdex,” he said. “Otherwise you weren’t considered a real player in the technology business. It was a total show for resellers and the manufacturers we represented.”

CRN parent The Channel Company acquired the Comdex assets in 2010 and launched a Comdex virtual event in November 2010 and then in 2011.

Bob Faletra, executive chairman of The Channel Company, fondly remembered Comdex as the gathering place for industry movers and shakers to set the pace of the future of the IT industry.

“Sheldon’s genius was creating a venue where all of the industry could gather to get a pulse on the fast-changing technology market,” said Faletra. “Comdex really helped drive the evolution of the IT industry.”

In its tribute to Adelson, The Las Vegas Sands said that Adelson was born to immigrant parents and raised in a poor section of Boston.

“Mr. Adelson went from a teenager selling newspapers on a street corner to becoming one of the world‘s most successful entrepreneurs,” the company said. “His achievements in the integrated resort and hospitality industry are well-documented. In Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Mr. Adelson’s vision for integrated resorts transformed the industry, changed the trajectory of the company he founded, and reimagined tourism in each of those markets. His impact on the industry will be everlasting.”

Chudnofsky, for his part, said Adelson had chutzpah, referencing the Yiddish word for someone with audacity. “I used to tell Sheldon ‘You can’t have it all.’ He would tell me, ‘Yes, I can!’ He had incredible chutzpah.”

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