Daisy Ho, chairman of Macau casino giant SJM Holdings and daughter of casino tycoon Stanley Ho, told Bloomberg this week a new alliance among shareholders will strengthen the business as it prepares to bid for a new gaming license in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

Daisy Ho

Daisy Ho (left), with her sister Pansy, whose alliance with the Fok Foundation has tipped the power scale back to her branch of Stanley Ho’s often-squabbling family. (Image: HK Ballet)

It was Daisy’s first interview since Pansy Ho announced last month the two sisters had allied with the Fok Foundation to consolidate control over STDM, the family’s main holding company, which controls SJM.

Together, the alliance will hold 53 percent of the company, according to a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. STDM holds around 54 percent of SJM.

Stanley Ho’s family have fought publicly over control of his vast business empire, which stretches beyond casinos into shipping and property. The 97-year-old patriarch has fathered 17 children from four women, each of whom he concurrently called his wives.

In 2011, as Ho was becoming increasingly frail, he aimed to resolve the legal squabbles among family members by dividing almost his entire share in SJM among them.

Power Struggle

But until the formation of the alliance with the Fok Foundation, his fourth “wife,” Angela Leong held the controlling stake in STDM. Daisy and Pansy are children of Ho’s second wife, Lucina Laam, and full-sisters of Melco chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho.

The Fok Foundation was created by Ho’s business partner Henry Fok to hold his stake in the company after his death. It’s controlled by his son, Timothy Fok, who is co-chairman of SJM.

The balance of power may have tipped in favor of the Ho sisters, but Daisy was preaching unity when she spoke to Bloomberg this week.

“The shareholders in the alliance all possess irreplaceable goodwill, accumulated through prolonged understanding and exposure in various industry sectors in Macau and mainland China,” she said. “Although the alliance is the ultimate controlling shareholder of SJM, no one should make isolated decisions. My job is to conduct robust board discussions and deliberations.”

“Together with Timothy Fok … we can leverage and apply these resources to further develop SJM’s competitiveness to pursue the new gaming concession,” she added.

Stakes High in 2020

Ho held the monopoly on gambling in Macau for decades, until 2002 when the market was opened up to international operators, creating six major licenses, or “concessions,” from which all other gambling is sub-licensed.

The concessions last for 20 years and SJM’s is up for renewal in 2020, with others to follow in 2022. Some analysts agree the alliance will provide stronger corporate governance that will steer a steadier ship towards a new license.

“The reintegration of the alliance’s resources with SJM will reinvigorate the gaming operator with the gravity it needs to move the needle on non-gaming investments, and will undoubtedly assist it in gaining a new concession,” Ben Lee, a Macau-based managing partner at IGamiX, told Bloomberg.