Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho, legendary in the gaming industry for being responsible for the rise of global gaming capital, Macau, has recently passed away at the golden age of 98 in Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital.
Known as the King of Gambling and one of Asia’s richest men, Ho’s personal net worth was estimated at HK$50 billion (US$ 6.4 billion) when he retired as chairman of his casino holdings back in 2018. His decade-long health battle, enhanced by an accident at his home mid-2009 which required three brain surgeries, enabled the kingpin to divide his grand fortune back then among his four family branches.
Building his casino empire up for half a century, his flagship firm SJM Holdings contributed the majority of the transformation of the former Portuguese colony to what is now considered the world’s gambling capital. Born into a family of wealth and privilege, Ho soon experienced great poverty after the death of their grandfather Ho Fook which led to the collapse of their family’s business. The event of the Second World War brought tougher times for the young Ho steering him to seek refuge in the neutral territory Macau wherein his career would naturally begin. Fortunately for Ho, opportunities to smuggle luxury goods into China brought him his first fortune in 1941.
Ho then married his first wife, Clementina Angela Leitao who came from a wealthy Portuguese business family giving Ho access to Macau’s upper class society. In 1961, Ho together with his co-investors in a company called Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) received a breakthrough winning the exclusive right to run all of Macau’s gambling operations until 2001. As early as the 1990s, Ho’s gaming businesses were already a success, accounting for half of the Macau government’s total revenue. The return to Chinese rule by the end of the decade pushed the empire’s success to prosper even more as the influx of Chinese gamblers and tourists came pouring in. A haven to operate legal casinos while supporting the government’s push to modernize, Macau in due course surpassed Las Vegas as the world’s gambling hub.
Leaving His Legacy
The patriarch throughout his life referred to four different women as his wives, fathering a total of seventeen children. Surviving fourteen of them and three of his wives, several of his beneficiaries are already embedded in the esteemed corporations accounting for half of Macau’s six gaming licenses.
Pansy Ho Chiu-king, the eldest daughter from Ho’s second marriage had already replaced father Stanley Ho as the executive chairman of Shun Tak Holdings, a developer active in diverse industries including shipping, property, hospitality and investments businesses. The company operating TurboJet under its shipping division, mainly operates ferry services between Hong Kong and Macau.
“Although we know the day will come, it does not ease our sorrow,” said Pansy Ho Chiu-king. “Dad will stay in people’s hearts forever and our family will continue to [contribute] to society.”
In January 2019, a pact to keep the children of Ho’s second wife Lucina Laam King-ying as the majority shareholders of Hong Kong-listed SJM Holdings was made, with Laam’s second daughter Daisy Ho Chiu-fung as chairman of the company and fourth wife Angela Leong as co-chairman. While Laam’s children may each be billionaires in their own right, Ho’s other family branches were also endowed with multiple high-end properties and businesses to last the families generations to come.
“Ho was a larger-than-life figure whose unparalleled vision, entrepreneurial spirit, resourcefulness and fearlessness were widely-recognized and well-respected,” according to a statement issued by Shun Tak group on behalf of the family. “To us, he was and forever will be our inspirational role model.”