Legend of Macao Gambling King – Stanley Ho (Part 2)

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Mar 25 2007
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Portugal was set to return Macao to China control after more than 440 years of colonial rule in 1999 but before the China could do so, rival gangs fought for control of the V.I.P rooms. Even official working for Stanley was murdered and a senior Portuguese official who tried to calm thing down was shot in the face. Gangsters terrorizing the city were frontpaged almost on daily basis. Only when China deployed its army after taken control of Macao could the peace came back to town.

The low-profile Stanley Ho has quietly plotting his counterattack strategy to ensure the Ho family will continue dominates Macao for years to come. He placed his 30-year old son, Lawrence Ho, at the helm of Melco International Development (HKG: 0200), a listed Hong Kong company he controlled. Melco formed a JV (joint-venture) with Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd. (ASX: PBL), one of Australia’s biggest media and entertainment companies to build several large casinos and hotels in the city. It went public in the United States in 2006 and already carries a stock market valuation of $6.8 billion.

After winning the bid for the second casino in Singapore, Genting Bhd agreed to sell a small stake in its $3.4 billion Singapore casino project to Ho and would in turn buy a controlling interest in a new gaming project that Ho plans in Macau but was met with angry voices from Singapore authorities. In a latest statement to Singapore Exchange, Genting International (SIN: G13) said it was divesting its stake in a Macau hotel casino to be run by Ho, putting a no-entry sign-board on the face of Stanley.

On the other hand, Stanley’s daughter Pansy, 44, who helped him manage his Shun Tak Holdings Limited conglomerate (HKG: 0242), formed a joint venture with MGM Mirage, giving her a 50 percent stake in a company that is building some of Macao’s biggest casinos. Nevada regulators approved the MGM Mirage deal with Pansy Ho, but not without hinting at the sensitivity surrounding the Ho legacy.

In a civil court case in Hong Kong involving a group of Chinese bank officials who were accused of fleeing to the United States from China with hundreds of millions of dollars, evidence has surfaced that some of the money was laundered through Mr. Ho’s casinos.

Turmoil is also brewing closer to home. Although Mr. Ho has announced plans to take SJM public in an offering that analysts say could raise $2 billion, the public offering has been mired in a legal battle with Winnie Ho, his sister. Winnie Ho has contended in a lawsuit filed in Macao that she actually provided most of the initial capital for the original company, S.T.D.M., in 1962, then helped run the company until 2001. But over the years, she says, her brother cheated her out of her shares and cheated investors out of $3.9 billion in dividends over four decades.

Despite the opposition he faces on many fronts – from gambling regulators, from new competitors in Macao and from his own family, Mr. Ho appears undeterred. In his interview with Macao Closer, he talked brashly about his past and his future, saying he battled pirates during World War II and weathered death threats when he opened his first casinos.

And now, he says, he can battle the Vegas giants because his casino company is the toughest. But the age is catching up prompting the next question of whether his trusted son, Lawrence Ho is capable of continueing his legend father’s legacy. The good news – Stanley has options from his pool of 17 children from his marriage to four wives.

… back to Part-1 of “Legend of Macao Gambling King – Stanley Ho”.

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