International edition
October 20, 2021

Questions about the future control of Mr. Ho’s casino empire intensified after he fell ill in 2009

Macau: Stanley Ho ownership dispute over casinos seems to settle

(Macau).- An ownership dispute centered on one of the world’s largest gambling operations appears to have been resolved — at least for now. On Wednesday, Stanley Ho, the octogenarian Macao casino magnate, confirmed that he had indeed intended to hand over his stake in the gambling empire he founded to members of his family.

T

he confirmation, announced in a brief, recorded statement broadcast on the TVB television station in Hong Kong, reversed the billionaire’s initial objections to the share transfer. Just a day earlier, Mr. Ho’s lawyer said Mr. Ho had labeled the transaction as “robbery” and threatened legal action against the family.

Questions about the future control of Mr. Ho’s casino empire, built up over decades, intensified after he fell ill in 2009 and needed brain surgery.  The matter has been complicated by his having 17 children fathered with various women, some of whom he refers to as wives.

Forbes in January ranked Mr. Ho as the 13th-richest man in Hong Kong, with an estimated fortune of us$ 3.1 billion. He capitalized on the buildup of Macao as a gambling hub; it now outranks Las Vegas in revenue. “The big problem has been resolved,” Mr. Ho said in Cantonese, according to Bloomberg News. “I love my families very much.”

The latest round of confusion about the casino empire arose Monday, when a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange announced the transfer of his shares to parts of his sprawling family, leaving Mr. Ho with hardly any stake in his main casino operating company.

But Tuesday morning, his lawyer, Gordon Oldham, a senior partner at a Hong Kong law firm, said Mr. Ho had denied wanting to transfer control of the shares to parts of the family and had intended to contest the matter in court.

Mr. Ho appeared to relent only hours after these disagreements became public. In a letter to family members released in the middle of the night Tuesday, Mr. Ho wrote that he had indeed intended to make the transaction and that he had done so voluntarily and after careful consideration. He also said that he had fired his lawyer, Mr. Oldham. His  firm later said it had met with Mr. Ho on Wednesday and still represented him.

Mr. Ho’s rare television appearance seemed to erase doubts about the share transfer announced Monday. However, he appeared very feeble in the broadcast. Sitting in a wheelchair, the 89-year-old spoke very slowly and in a slightly slurred voice into a microphone held to his face.

Shares of SJM Holdings, which operates the casinos set up by Mr. Ho, fell 4.9 % Wednesday, reflecting lingering investor uncertainty about the future ownership of the company.

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