Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The fabulous life of the man who built the world’s biggest gambling town, Stanley Ho

Stanley Ho glass toast

Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho proposes a toast during a ceremony to celebrate the opening of his new commercial complex named “The Shanghai City” in Shanghai’s Hongqiao district.
He’s technically no longer in the business, but casino tycoon Stanley Ho’s influence on world wide gambling is impossible to ignore.

The 92-year-old billionaire is single-handedly responsible for creating Macau’s most profitable industry — it brings in 80 percent of the city’s revenue.

Ho has been referred to as ‘The King of Gambling,’ ‘The King of Macau,’ and Macau’s ‘underground governor.’ In 2011, Forbes ranked Ho the 13th richest man in Hong Kong with an estimated net worth of $3.1 billion. 

Macau’s casinos have suffered a hit in recent months, but the vast presence Ho and his company SJM Holdings is nothing short of impressive. 

So what’s it like to build a billion dollar empire from scratch? 

Stanley Ho was born into China’s well-known and powerful Hotung family in 1921.

However, his father went bankrupt during his childhood and two of his brothers committed suicide.
Source: The Telegraph

Ho received a scholarship to attend University of Hong Kong but didn’t finish his degree.

He dropped out when his family was forced to flee Hong Kong for Macau. This was during the Second World War, when the Japanese invaded.
Source: The Telegraph

He made partner at an import-export firm in Macau by age 22.

His fortune first came from running luxury goods into China during the war, and he later started a kerosene company.

His casino empire started when he, along with some other investors, won a gambling monopoly in 1982.

From there, he ventured into other branches of business in Macau, including department stores, hotels, banks, real estate and a high-speed ferry service. The island wasn’t open to foreign gaming firms until 2001.

Today Ho’s company runs 18 casinos in Macau.

Ho’s firm Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macao (STDM) owns and operates his casino business Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM Holdings). His 19th casino, the Lisboa Palace, is set to open in 2017.

At one time, Ho controlled over half of Macau’s economy.

STDM is the city’s biggest commercial employer. Ho also controls the city’s airport, ferries and helicopter service.
Source: TIME

The billionaire sits on the boards of numerous companies and organizations.

These include Macau International Airport, Seng Heng Bank, Macau Horse Racing Co., Real Estate Developers Association in Hong Kong and University of Hong Kong Foundation for Educational Development and Research.

During his down time he watches his award-winning racehorse, Viva Pataca.

He also once spent $8.84 million on a Qing dynasty bronze sculpture of a horse’s head, which he later donated to the Chinese government.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

He also likes to buy expensive fungi — he’s spent over $500,000 on white truffles at charity auctions.

He won two years in a row, bidding $330,000 in 2007 and $200,000 in 2008.
Source: Reuters Pictures

Ho has 17 children from four different wives.

Although they are recognized as Ho’s wives, it is unclear if the women are actually legally married to him. One of his 17 children died in 2004 and two of his children are also in the casino business.

Three of them have become rich and famous — Ho’s daughter Pansy Ho is the cochair of MGM China.

Pansy Ho is Hong Kong’s richest woman, with a net worth of $5 billion. She owns 50% of MGM Macau.
Source: TIME, Forbes

His son Lawrence Ho is the CEO of another Macau casino company, Melco Crown Entertainment.

Lawrence runs three casinos in Macau with his partner, Australian casino businessman James Packer.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Another daughter, Josie Ho, is a Hong Kong pop star.

Josie has released several albums and won an acting award at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2004.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

His nephew Alan Ho was recently arrested in a prostitution ring bust.

Police also arrested 96 prostitutes that night who operated in Alan Ho’s hotel. Alan Ho is the executive director of Hotel Lisboa.


Ho withdrew from the business after he became ill.

Ho underwent brain surgery in 2009. He currently has almost no stake in SJM Holdings, but his casinos continue to be a large and influential part of Macau.

Ho is also rumored to have ties to the Chinese mafia.

He has denied any links to the organized crime groups known as Chinese triads.
‘These reports only say that I know some triad members. Well, maybe you have come across some. To be associated with or to know someone is completely different [from being one],” Ho said in response to the allegations.
Source: South China Morning Post

The Ho clan went through an extensive family feud over his empire back in 2011.

Ho filed two lawsuits suing his family over a share restructuring that left him with almost nothing in his company. He dropped the lawsuit and said the matter was resolved in March 2011.


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