Ex-Supreme Court Clerk Is Top-Paid Lawyer in US Gaming Industry


A former clerk for John Roberts Jr. and Brett Kavanaugh who went to work for casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has emerged as one of the US gaming industry’s top-paid company lawyers.

D. Zachary Hudson, global general counsel for Las Vegas Sands Corp., received $12 million in total compensation during fiscal 2023, the company disclosed Friday in a proxy filing.

His pay package is composed of roughly $9.3 million in stock and options awards that will trigger over time as a means of keeping the former litigator at Las Vegas Sands through 2029.

Las Vegas Sands, founded by Adelson, a politically connected billionaire who died in 2021, hired Hudson two years earlier to succeed Lawrence “Lon” Jacobs as the company’s top lawyer.

Hudson’s compensation, excluding the long-term incentive awards, included $1.1 million in salary and almost $1.6 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation. He also received roughly $22,000 for the use of Las Vegas Sands-owned aircraft, according to the company’s proxy filing.

Going forward Hudson will earn at least $1.3 million in annual base salary and be eligible for additional bonuses and compensation if he meets performance targets set by Las Vegas Sands.

Hudson’s pay topped the almost $2.6 million he earned in 2022 and $6.8 million in 2021. He was in line for a substantial raise as a means of incentivizing him to stay in his job, Las Vegas Sands disclosed in a December securities filing.

Las Vegas Sands and Hudson didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Before joining Adelson, Hudson was general counsel for Afiniti International Holdings Co. Ltd., an artificial intelligence and software company. He spent nearly five years in private practice at Bancroft, a Washington-based litigation boutique eventually absorbed by Kirkland & Ellis.

Hudson clerked for Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justice Kavanaugh when he was on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Before graduating from Yale Law School in 2009, he served more than three years in the US Navy as a lieutenant and assistant engineer on the USS Santa Fe, a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine.

Changing Business

Las Vegas Sands, which sold off its hotels in the city in 2021 as part of its pivot to Asia, has been an outlier in the gaming sector by being slow to embrace the fast-growing US sports betting market.

That could be changing. Las Vegas Sands has backed referendums to open up new regions to sports betting, and in December the Adelson family finalized its $3.5 billion buy of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Sheldon Adelson’s widow Miriam Adelson and her family sold $2 billion in Las Vegas Sands stock to finance their acquisition of the Mavericks from technology mogul Mark Cuban. Miriam Adelson has been a key player in funding initiatives designed to bring resort-style casinos to Texas, according to Bloomberg News.

Within the past few years, Las Vegas Sands has built up an in-house legal staff that includes chief compliance officer Erik Sandstedt, a former federal prosecutor hired in 2022 after working at McKesson Corp. and Pfizer Inc.

Nicole Lesani, a former senior associate general counsel at Las Vegas Sands, left late last year to become general counsel for Thrill One Sports & Entertainment, an action sports startup formed by the owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics.

Peer Pay Packages

Hudson’s pay package as disclosed by Las Vegas Sands exceeds the compensation levels of top lawyers at rival operations.

MGM Resorts International’s chief legal and administrative officer, John McManus, earned more than $4.5 million in 2023, the company disclosed in a proxy filing earlier this month. Wynn Resorts Ltd. gave its general counsel Ellen Whittemore more than $4.5 million last year, according to its proxy.

DraftKings Inc. disclosed that its legal chief, R. Stanton Dodge, received almost $6.6 million in total compensation last year, per the daily fantasy sports and sports book operator’s most recent proxy filed last week. Dodge, like Hudson, has previously been the recipient of large, long-term equity awards.

The proxy statement filed by Las Vegas Sands also identifies other large hospitality, retail, and real estate companies as peers, such as Carnival Corp., Marriott International Inc., Simon Property Group Inc., Starbucks Corp., and Vici Properties Inc. Hudson’s total compensation last year topped what was disclosed for the legal chiefs of all those publicly traded enterprises.