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Julie Moraine May 26, 2020 4 min read
Stanley Ho – Macau’s Gambling King Passed Away at 98
The popular gambling king, Stanley Ho passed away at 98. The Macau gambling pioneer’s fortune continues to grow with the help of his family and his legacy lives.
Macau’s Gambling Pioneer Stanley Ho Has Passed Away
Stanley Ho, one of Asia’s richest men and creator of the largest gaming empire, died at the age of 98. The “King of Macau” died peacefully in his sleep, his family announced on Tuesday. Valued around $6 billion, Ho’s flagship firm SJM Holdings Ltd helped with the transformation of Macau’s gaming industry. Ho had four wives and was a father to 17 children. He was known to be a passionate dancer and he built his entire empire from scratch in the former Portuguese colony. This effectively made him one of Asia’s richest men. Owning Macau’s oldest gambling company, SJM, Ho introduced the junket VIP system. The system is effectively run by middlemen who increase credit for gamblers but also ensure debt collection.
Ho’s businesses involved multiple industries including helicopters and ferries connecting Macau and Hong Kong, but also luxury hotels, Macau’s airport, horse-racing tracks and various stores. Back in 2009, following an incident at home, Ho went through brain surgery. Although he recovered after seven months and left the hospital, he wasn’t seen much in public. Then in 2011-2012 a family legal feud was started involving the control of SJM Holdings Ltd in Macau. Ho quickly found a way to settle the dispute and he distributed his wealth equally among his big family.
Ho’s Family Wealth Continues to Grow
In recent years, with his advancing age, Ho began to take steps to divide his empire. Back in 2018, he stepped down as chairman of SJM but the position was then led by his daughter, Daisy Ho. His eldest daughter Pansy Ho replaced Stanley Ho as a chairperson leading the Shun Tak Holdings. The holding is developing estates as well as running hotels in Hong Kong and Macau but it also operates ferries. Pansy’s fortune is estimated to be around $3.7 billion.
But Ho’s family fortune does not end here. His son Lawrence Ho is leading Melco International Development and his worth is estimated at around $2 billion. Ho’s fourth wife, Angela Leong is actually SJM’s co-chair and second shareholder in the company. Angela’s wealth is estimated at around $3.2 billion. But having a fortune doesn’t mean that the “King of Macau” did not like to spend it as well. Back in 2007, Ho purchased a bronze horse head at the cost of $8.9 million, only to donate it to a Chinese museum.
The Early Years of a Billionaire
Stanley Ho was born in 1921 in a wealthy Hong Kong family – the Hotungs. Following a stock market crash due to the Great Depression, his father left his family when Ho was only 13 years old. Although he started university in Hong Kong, his attendance was disrupted due to World War II. Ho was later working for the British forces as a telephone operator. His fluent English and Chinese helped him a lot at that time, but when China fell to Japan, he had to escape to Macau. In an interview from 2001, Ho commented on this difficult moment: “I had to throw away my uniform and run to Macao as a refugee.“
In the following years while the conflict was still going, he earned his living with various smuggling and trading up the Pearl River Delta. Ho even had an encounter with pirates which he luckily survived. Ho married his first life Clementina Leitao in 1948. Clementina was a daughter of a famous Macau lawyer, which later helped Ho and his business partners. In 1962, Ho successfully won the monopoly for gambling in the country following a public bidding. In more recent times, Portugal transferred the sovereignty over Macau to China in 1999. Few years later in 2002, Ho’s monopole was discontinued and overseas operators were allowed to enter the market. This however only boosted the quiescent Macau market which once revived, quickly outperformed the Las Vegas strip in the US.
Over the years, various accusations emerged relating Ho with criminal Chinese gangs know as triads in the 90s period. However, none of those accusations were ever proved, even more, Stanley Ho first appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine in 1992.