Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho dies aged 98

Andrew Cummings
May 28, 2020

Dr Ho, the father of modern Macau, passed away at the age of 98 at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital following a long battle with illness, with his daughter, Pansy Ho Chiu King, addressing the media shortly afterwards.

The Hong Kong-born Ho, often described as the "king" or "godfather" of Macau gambling, was the driving force in establishing Macau as what is today the world's richest gambling destination.

Founded by Ho in 1972, the holding company owns commercial properties in Hong Kong including the twin-tower Shun Tak Centre which stands above the Macau ferry terminal, as well as the SkyCity Marriott Hotel, in addition to having developed a series of residential projects.

However, Ho's interests in Macau, on the coast of southeast China across the mouth of the Pearl River opposite Hong Kong, were not limited to the roulette wheels and baccarat tables.

His unions blessed him with 17 children, with his first child 53 years older than his youngest. At 13, his father lost everything in the stock market and fled to Vietnam, abandoning his wife and children.

Mr. Ho attended the University of Hong Kong but didn't graduate. He boarded a boat for neutral Macau, joining refugees from mainland China in the dying fishing port. Ho married his first life Clementina Leitao in 1948.

Mr. Ho also married Lucina Laam under a Qing dynasty code allowing men to take multiple wives. He left school and worked for seven days for the Air Raid Service Department before the Japanese captured Hong Kong.

"Ho's Macau monopoly expired in 2001, two years after China regained control fo the island from Portugal". That investment came less than two years after the developer had paid S$593.5 million (then $444 million) to enter the city's residential market with the purchase of a pair of luxury residential plots near the same shopping district. That brought in foreign rivals including Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International, spurring a building boom that transformed the sleepy, seedy former colonial outpost into a glitzy gambling powerhouse frequented by high-rolling mainland Chinese.

In 2011, a very public feud erupted over control of his multibillion-dollar stake in Macau casino operator SJM Holdings Ltd.

Over the years, there were allegations that Ho's casinos allowed organized crime groups to operate in their properties. Back in 2007, Ho purchased a bronze horse head at the cost of $8.9 million, only to donate it to a Chinese museum. Ho for years, most recently in a 2010 report by the New Jersey gaming commission that accused him of letting Chinese criminal gangs, or triads, prosper inside his casinos during the 1990s. He also twice bid a record $330,000 for truffles at charity auctions.

Mr Ho had four wives and 17 known children. His eldest son, Robert, was killed in a auto crash in Portugal in 1981.

Ms Ho is the co-chairman of MGM Resorts International's Macau unit, MGM China Holdings, while one of Mr Ho's sons, Lawrence, runs Melco Resorts & Entertainment.

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