Stanley Ho

SJM shareholders approve casino mogul Stanley Ho’s retirement as he cedes reins to his heirs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 10:56pm

Stanley Ho Hung-sun, the nonagenarian tycoon and founder of Asia’s largest casino empire, has officially ceded the reins of the company that monopolised gambling in Macau for four decades to his heirs.

The retirement of Ho, who turns 97 in November, was formally approved today at the annual shareholders meeting of SJM Holdings in Hong Kong.

The tycoon would become chairman emeritus, while the company’s board would be chaired by his daughter Daisy Ho Chiu-fung. Ho’s fourth wife, Angela Leong On Kei, and Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, the son of Ho’s former business partner Henry, will hold the titles of co-chair.

Leong also takes on the role of executive director, while the Ho family’s long-time adviser, Ambrose So Shu-fai, will be vice-chairman and chief executive.

The retirement of the tycoon, wheelchair bound in recent years, was first announced in April.

Retired, but still in the building: Stanley Ho’s four-decade grip on the world’s biggest casino hub

“My dad has always been the soul of SJM,” Daisy Ho said after the meeting, adding that her father is in good health.

Today’s meeting thrusts the younger generation of the Ho clan to the front line to vie with the new entrants to Macau’s gambling industry like Lui Che Woo’s Galaxy, as well as Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian and Parisian casinos.

SJM is poised to unveil in the second half of 2019 its most ambitious property yet, the US$4.6 billion Grand Lisboa Palace, an integrated casino resort with 5.5 million square feet of space, with an emphasis on providing family-oriented entertainment in addition to gambling.

The new corporate structure, with two co-chairs on the 15-member board, raises questions on how SJM, with HK$60 billion (US$7.6 billion) of capitalisation, could function, analysts said.

“We can’t help but think that the proposed board structure is a bit messy, with too many interested parties,” JPMorgan Chase & Co’s gaming analyst DS Kim wrote in April, when SJM’s corporate structure was first announced. “This complicated structure leaves room for a potential power tussle within the board, given the lack of clear control.”

SJM’s shares fell 0.4 per cent in Tuesday trading to HK$10.60 on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The stock has risen by 51 per cent since the elder Ho’s retirement was announced on April 12.

SJM has seen satisfactory growth in gaming sales every month, chief executive officer So said, adding that 2018 mass-market revenue could grow at double digits compared to last year.

The company’s mass market gaming revenue grew by 0.6 per cent last year, whilst the revenue from high rollers fell by 0.3 per cent and slot machine sales shrank by 3.7 per cent. SJM operates 20 casinos, with more than 1,700 gambling tables and over 2,400 slot machines as of the end of 2017.