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04 Apr 2022

Stanley Ho is the entrepreneur who built his fortune by building the casino empire of Macau. Mr. Ho ran a casino monopoly in the former Portuguese colony for four decades until the territory’s new Chinese rulers ended it in 2002. 

Ho companies lost their monopoly when the Macau government-issued licenses to five other groups – including Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson and others controlled by Ho family members. Ho is regarded key person in the transformation of the casino scene in Macau, which made the former Portuguese colony a gambling hub eclipsing Las Vegas by several times. He died in the year 2020 at the age of 98.

Ho, full name Ho Hung-sun, was born into the rogue branch of Hong Kong’s famed Ho Tung clan having Dutch Jewish ancestors. He is the cousin of famous martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. Ho left Hong Kong city during World War II with HK$10 in his pocket and shifted his base to neutral Macau. 

After shifting base to Hong Kong, Ho made fortune smuggling luxury goods across the border between China and Macau during WWII and invested his profits in kerosene and construction businesses, before bidding for the gambling monopoly that was tendered by the Portuguese controlled Macanese government in the 1960s. He obtained his first casino license in the year 1961.  Ho’s great-grandfather, Charles Bosman was a successful Dutch-Jewish entrepreneur in mid-19th century Hong Kong. 

His Hong Kong-listed SJM Holdings Ltd. now runs 20—or about half—of the casinos including the Grand Lisboa in Macau’s $37 billion gambling market. His family is also into the development of real estate projects that helped fund Macau’s airport. Ho at some point reportedly accounted for half of the Macau government’s tax revenue. 

He had suffered years of ill health in the last stages of his life with conditions including kidney failure, a stroke and Parkinson’s Disease. His death was announced in 2020 by mainland Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, which called him a “patriotic entrepreneur.”  

Ho left behind a complicated family structure with four wives and consorts, and local media reported that the surviving three were all present at his hospital bedside in his last days. Ho is known to have fathered 17 known children, of which 16 are still alive. 

The casino magnate retired in 2018, handing over the operations to daughter Daisy Ho as chairman of SJM. Angela Leong, whom Mr Ho called his fourth wife, is the second largest shareholder and is one of the company’s executives directors at the time of his death. 

The family, split by internal disputes, holds a significant position in Macau beyond SJM. A feud among the Ho clan burst into the open and made international headlines in 2011 but was said to be amicably settled. 

His other daughter, Pansy Ho, heads a real-estate developer founded by her father, and has been a major shareholder and executive at Macau casino operator MGM China Holdings Ltd. Lawrence Ho, his eldest living son, is the chairman of Melco International Development Ltd., one of the 100 oldest companies in Hong Kong, it was founded in 1910. Melco International owns casinos such as Studio City Macau, City of Dreams Macau, City of Dreams Manila, and Altira Macau.

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