Ian Feldman’s first introduction to the gaming industry was through an exchange program in college that allowed him to study and live in Singapore. His time there coincided with the beginning of the city-state’s decision to legalize integrated resorts (IRs).
The unique political process that led to Singapore’s IR decision caught Feldman’s attention, and he decided to write his senior thesis at Claremont McKenna College about the politics of introducing casinos into Singapore. After graduating from CMC, Feldman started his first job in the investor relations department at Las Vegas Sands Corp., not coincidentally one of the winning bidders in Singapore.
“Since I was going to intensely study one topic for my thesis, I decided to focus on an area that I could see myself pursuing as a career,” Feldman says. “I ended up using that thesis as my jumping-off point into the industry, which opened a door for me to get my first job at Las Vegas Sands at the same time the company was investing billions of dollars to build one of the IRs in Singapore.”
At the time he started with LVS in 2008, the company was going through a challenging period during the global recession, and like many other companies, LVS went through a difficult recapitalization.
“It was one of the best on-the-job capital-markets educational opportunities possible,” Feldman notes.
But Las Vegas Sands emerged from the recession facing one of the biggest opportunities in Asia for perhaps any company in the world. Feldman’s responsibilities, at the time, included introducing the global investment community to the Asian gaming industry, which was relatively undiscovered by investors.
“One of the real joys of my time in investor relations was taking investors to our operations in Asia,” he says. “Many of them were making their first trip ever to Asia, so to be part of their educational process, and to see their amazement at the level of activity in Asia, was quite rewarding.”
Through his first six years at LVS, Feldman continued to grow within the company. Last year, he transitioned to become the executive director of strategy and operations. Reporting to the president and chief operating officer, Rob Goldstein, in his new role, Feldman touches multiple departments and gets involved with special projects for the company. On any given day, he is involved in evaluating issues relating to the operations of any one of the company’s eight properties, while also managing multiple new development opportunities.
At this early point in his career, Feldman feels very lucky to be in the position that he is in—he credits his tenacity and willingness to work on projects that others might shy away from. The drive to work on any project while bringing a diverse background has provided Feldman with the unique ability to see the big picture while being able to dig into the details.
Along his brief but distinguished career path, Feldman has worked with great mentors and advisers. He credits a government professor at Claremont, Fred Balitzer, as his most tenured mentor.
“Early in my time at Claremont, Dr. Balitzer pulled me aside one day and asked me to work alongside him throughout my undergraduate studies,” Feldman recalls. “During that time he was instrumental in my professional development, and importantly, he gave me my first opportunity to travel to Asia. To get that type of support at a young age was very impactful for me.” Feldman has stayed close in touch with his mentor and continues to seek his advice and guidance.
In addition to finding a strong mentor, Feldman says other up-and-coming people in the industry “should continue to develop their intellectual curiosity about the business, but also the greater operating environment. It is important to understand the entire picture of any market or business—plus, it allows you to have conversations with superiors that go beyond work-related topics to help form stronger relationships.”