Hong Kong (China) (AFP) – Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho will step down from his flagship casino empire SJM Holdings, the company said late Thursday, as the 96-year-old magnate hands over the reins to his daughter.
Known as the “godfather” of Macau casinos, Ho has been instrumental in turning the former Portuguese colony on China’s southern coast into a gambling boomtown, with gaming revenue surpassing Las Vegas.
His retirement will take effect on June 12 at the end of SJM’s annual general meeting, after which he will take on the new title of “chairman emeritus”, the company said.
Daisy Ho, his daughter, will take over as chairman and executive director, while his fourth wife Angela Leong and Timothy Fok, son of Stanley Ho’s former business partner Henry Fok, will be appointed co-chairmen and executive directors.
Gaming revenues in Macau were hit hard by a corruption crackdown launched by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2012, but SJM is trying to lure visitors back to Macau with the sprawling new Grand Lisboa Palace complex, reportedly due to open in 2019.
Ho is the great-nephew of one of Asia’s first tycoons, Robert Hotung, who was among Hong Kong’s wealthiest individuals at the turn of the 20th century.
He made his fortune smuggling luxury goods into China from Macau during World War II, before securing the only gaming licence in the then-Portuguese colony in 1962.
The billionaire monopolised the gaming industry until 2002, when the government introduced foreign investors, sparking a boom which saw casino takings contribute around 80 percent of the city’s annual revenue.
He stepped down as chairman from his Hong Kong-based conglomerate Shun Tak Holdings last year with his daughter Pansy Ho succeeding him.
A flamboyant entrepreneur, Ho first married in 1942 but has subsequently had three other partners, though it is unclear whether or not he married all the women he called wives.
The keen ballroom dancer cultivated a playboy lifestyle, fathering at least 17 children, one of whom, Lawrence, runs rival casino and hotel operator Melco Crown in Macau.