Macau ‘Founding Father’ Stanley Ho to Retire, Hand Control to Daughter Daisy

Posted on: April 13, 2018, 06:52h. 

Last updated on: April 13, 2018, 06:52h.

Stanley Ho is finally ready to retire at 96-years-old. The Macau billionaire, who is considered the enclave’s “founding father,” will step down from SJM Holdings in June and hand control of the company to his daughter Daisy.

Stanley Ho retirement Macau
Born in 1921, Stanley Ho says 2018 is the year he’s finally ready to stop working. (Image: Victor Fraile/Reuters)

After making a small fortune smuggling luxury goods into China from Macau during World War II, Ho obtained the only gaming concession in the enclave in 1962. Then controlled by Portugal, Ho transformed the sleepy colony littered with gambling dens into the world’s largest casino hub.

Macau was returned to Chinese control in 1999, and two years later the People’s Republic ended Ho’s monopoly and welcomed outside commercial operators to bid on five additional licenses.

“Dr. Ho has justifiably been acknowledged as the founding father of Macau’s gaming industry, which has for some time been the largest in the world in terms of revenue,” SJM Holdings said in a statement.

Ho stepped down as chairman of Shun Tak Holdings, the conglomerate he founded in 1972, last June.

Stanley Ho has garnered the reputation of being a flamboyant playboy over the decades. He’s thought to have had at least four wives at a single time, and fathered 17 children. Most notably among his offspring are Pansy Ho, a major stakeholder in MGM China, and Lawrence Ho, the founder of Melco Resorts.

SJM Lagging Behind

Rumors have been circulating that Stanley Ho hasn’t been actually leading SJM for years. After suffering a fall in 2009 at his home, the billionaire underwent brain surgery and spent the next seven months in a hospital. He’s since been confined to a wheelchair and hasn’t been involved in day-to-day operations.

The Wall Street Journal’s Ese Erheriene says, “The departure of Mr. Ho will have little impact.”

Though no company is more responsible for building Macau into what it is today, which is a more than $32 billion a year gross gaming revenue (GGR) casino mecca, SJM has fallen behind the foreign companies that obtained operating licenses in 2002.

Today, Sands China and Wynn Macau are the two dominant forces accounting for the most gaming revenue. The Cotai Strip, a term coined by Sands, has become the main drag in Macau since The Venetian and Plaza opened there in 2007 and 2008.

Five of the six licensed casino operators have multibillion-dollar integrated resorts running on the Cotai Strip. The one that doesn’t is SJM.

That will change when Lisboa Palace opens next year, but more than a decade after Cotai began attracting the high rollers away from the downtown area means Ho’s company presumably missed out on many billions of dollars in GGR during the last decade.

Daisy in Control

SJM Holdings shareholders reacted positively to the news that Stanley Ho was stepping down. The stock jumped 3.74 percent on Friday.

Morgan Stanley recently predicted “further market share losses” for SJM, and one investor said during a company call that “everyone has kept waiting for SJM to come to life.” That responsibility will now rest on Daisy Ho.

The 54-year-old has been the deputy managing director and chief financial officer of Shun Tak Holdings since 1999. She was appointed to the SJM board last June.

Daisy holds an MBA from the University of Toronto, and is married with two daughters. She becomes the first woman to oversee a company possessing a casino permit in Macau.