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XXIV - 2016

by SCMP

XXIV 24

Wilfred Wong on the challenges of operating Sands China’s resorts and casinos in Macau

Wong talks about his varied career and why his experience makes him the ideal fit for his position

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 9:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 11:24am

Dr Wilfred Wong is the man responsible for the operations of Sands China’s integrated resorts in Macau, including the recently launched The Parisian Macau.

The president of Sands China is a lover of film and the arts, and continues to participate actively in Hong Kong’s creative scene. He serves as chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, is deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Film Development Council, and is also chairman of the Asian Film Awards Academy.

Hailing from Hong Kong, Wong doesn’t believe in wasting time and tries to make every second of each day count. “I have a full life,” he says. “I keep telling everybody that I am running three lives [at] one time.”

However, this does not mean he is willing to spread himself thin. He is not a believer in long meetings, which he tends to restrict to 30-minute sessions.

A Harvard and Oxford alumnus, Wong quickly moved up the ranks of the Hong Kong civil service, which he joined at the start of his career. “If you look at my career, I have always liked challenges. From my career as a civil servant I moved into business. In the business sector, I tried different professions – [as a] developer [in] construction, and all that.”

I keep telling everybody that I am running three lives [at] one time
Dr Wilfred Wong

In his present position, Wong couldn’t have found a more perfect fit because Sands China’s resorts are an aggregation of different businesses rolled into one. “If you look at Sands China, it is a hotel, a meeting space, [with] food and beverages, entertainment, family facilities – and of course there is gaming … There are many facets of this business, [many areas in which] I have previous experience. So, for me, it’s the challenge of a big enterprise.”

The challenge includes creating special experiences for Sands’ visitors. The Venetian and The Parisian convey the look and feel of the iconic cities on which they are modelled.

Less than 5 per cent of the integrated resort under Sands China is dedicated to gaming; the remainder is for shopping, dining and other entertainment. So, how does the president of Sands China spend a typical day? “For us, the pace is very fast,” he says. “This is a company of 30,000 people. And every day I have to interact with the staff, not just the managers.”

It is not all work and no play. Wong is a serious foodie and a film, art and music lover. He is not much of a drinker, but enjoys a good wine – and has a collection of over 500 bottles.

Wong’s thirst for challenges and new experiences have brought him to the top of this competitive industry. He is often inspired by a two-foot-tall statue of Christopher Columbus, which sits in his office. “When I changed careers and left Hong Kong for [mainland] China, my friend gave me this statue. ‘Like him, you are going to explore a new land’, he said.” The statue has stayed with him ever since. LHC