Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho dies aged 98

Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho dies at 98

Ho, who garnered his initial fortune as a smuggler of luxury goods between Macau and mainland China, led a conglomerate that outbid a fierce rival in 1961 to win Macau's initial - and for 40 years, the only - gambling operator's license for Macau.

Mr. Ho's eventful life tracked the ebb and flow of southern China's fortunes.

Mr Ho monopolised the gaming industry until 2002, when the government introduced foreign investors, sparking a boom which saw casino takings contribute around 80 per cent of Macau's annual revenue and overtake Las Vegas.

He spent lavishly while wielding great influence both in Macao and in neighbouring Hong Kong while - according to USA authorities - maintaining ties to organized crime. His extended family erupted in high-profile squabbles over his empire during his later years. It's a house game.

Founded by Ho in 1972, the holding company owns commercial properties in Hong Kong including the twin-tower Shun Tak Centre which stands above the Macau ferry terminal, as well as the SkyCity Marriott Hotel, in addition to having developed a series of residential projects.

Ho died at around 1:00 p.m. local time at Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, his daughter Pansy Ho Chiu-king said at a media briefing outside the hospital.

Ho was born on November 25, 1921, into the Hotung family, one of Hong Kong's wealthiest and most powerful.

Ho is most famous for building a casino empire in Macau which majorly shifted the Chinese island past Las Vegas as the world's biggest gambling hub.

Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho dies at 98
Family members of Mr Stanley Ho speaking to the media

After the acquisition became the subject of a probe by gaming regulators, Ho cancelled the acquisition of the remaining 10 percent and sold the 9.99 percent stake to Blackstone last month for A$550 million.

In 1948, he married Clementina Leitao, the daughter of a prominent lawyer in Macao who had connections to Portugal and to Macao high society. In more recent times, Portugal transferred the sovereignty over Macau to China in 1999.

Shares of companies in the family's empire surged on expectations of potential ownership changes involving Ho's family members.

Over the years, various accusations emerged relating Ho with criminal Chinese gangs know as triads in the 90s period.

Ho occasionally made news with extravagant gestures such as paying $8.9 million in 2007 for a bronze horse head looted by French troops from China's imperial palace 150 years earlier so he could donate it to a Chinese museum.

STDM, Shun Tak Holdings Ltd, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau S.A. (SJM) and SJM Holdings Ltd released a joint obituary to commemorate the loss, while Hotel Lisboa and Grand Lisboa lowered their flags to half-mast. He also twice bid a record $330,000 for truffles at charity auctions.

Son Lawrence Ho, also from his second marriage, is chairman of Melco International Development, which runs three casinos in Macau. Another daughter, Josie, is an actress and singer who had a role in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film "Contagion".

"I was a very poor man", he said.



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