On May 26, legendary Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun died in Hong Kong at the age of 98. Yet, before Ho’s funeral – which has been set to take place on July 9 – the public has recently witnessed a debate over the distribution of his inheritance between his four wives and 17 children, as the rift deepens among the sisters in the first family. With his successful business empire, that survived several Portuguese and Chinese administrations, Ho was a legend. However, it is perhaps lesser known that he actually had a long and respectable ancestry which can be traced back to the late 19th century. Which universities are China’s billionaires sending their children to? During Hong Kong’s early colonial era, the Hos were one of the “four big families” of Hong Kong, alongside Li, Hui and Lo. Their founders – Robert Hotung, Li Sek-peng, Hui Oi-chow and Lo Cheung-shiu, respectively – were all influential businessmen who rose to prominence, and many of their descendants are still recognised today. Stanley Ho was the grandnephew of Robert Hotung, who was arguably one of the most influential businessmen and philanthropists in Hong Kong’s history. Here we take a look at the fabled life of the man often referred to as the first billionaire in Hong Kong, the “Far East JP Morgan”, and the “grand old man of Hong Kong”. He was Eurasian and his father was of Dutch Jewish ancestr y In 1862, Hotung was born in Hong Kong to British-Dutch father Charles Henry Maurice Bosman and a Chinese mother, Sze Tai. He was raised in Hong Kong by his mother and was educated at the Government Central School, which was later renamed Queen’s College, a secondary school in Hong Kong. Although Hotung was of mixed parentage, he was raised solely by his mother and identified himself as native Chinese. Historical photos always show Hotung in his mandarin robes. Dubbed the “Far East JP Morgan”, he was believed to be the richest man in Hong Kong After graduating from school in 1878, Hotung worked briefly for the Guangdong customs before he joined Jardines as junior staff. His exceptional bilingual skills and business acumen saw him promoted in just three years to be the head comprador. 5 Chinese tycoons who lost billions thanks to Covid-19 By this time, he received not only the basic salary from the firm but also the huge commission from every transaction completed. Hotung then left Jardines to set up his own business empire. He had businesses and assets all over Hong Kong, China, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America across different trades, including real estates, shipping, food and grain, financial investment, press, trade, insurance, entertainment and hotels. He was also the major shareholder of many big enterprises, including Industrial and Commercial Daily Press, Kwan Yick Mortgage, Green Island Cement, Hong Kong Canton and Macao Steamboat Company, Hong Kong Electric, Hongkong Land, Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock, Peak Tram and Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels. And he invested prodigiously: In 1938, he held shares in one-fifth of the 83 listed companies in Hong Kong. In the 1950s, he personally owned 3 per cent of all the real estate in Hong Kong, excluding the properties and lands he acquired in the name of companies. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, he was believed to be the richest man in Hong Kong and this earned him the sobriquet, “the Far East JP Morgan”, in the west. He was the first Chinese person to live on The Peak – and the Irish playwright Bernard Shaw was his guest Hotung was one of the biggest landlords in Hong Kong, possessing properties in every district of the city. So where did Hotung and his family live? Hotung owned four villas on The Peak, with Idlewild at 8 Seymour Road (where the Hong Kong Garden block of flats is now located), as his primary home from 1897. He once received the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw there in 1933. It’s worth mentioning that according to The Peak Reservation Ordinance enacted in 1904, only Europeans were allowed to live on Victoria Peak. However, with his eminent position in society, Hotung was granted permission to reside there, becoming the very first Chinese person to live on The Peak. Soon afterwards, Hotung acquired another three villas on The Peak – Eyrie, Neuk and The Falls, aka Ho Tung Gardens or Hiu Kok Yuen in Cantonese. With a natural mountain stream inside, hence the name, The Falls might have been the most well-known. The villa, in Chinese Renaissance style, also came with a single-digit telephone number, 8. Hotung received many famous visitors at the villa, including US Vice President John Nance Garner in 1935. It was later commandeered as a military base to fight the Japanese Imperial Army in 1941. Hong Kong’s Jumbo floating restaurants: a stroll down memory lane He was knighted by King George V as Knight Bachelor and then by Queen Elizabeth II as Knight Commander As a business mogul and a billionaire, Hutong never spared in giving back his wealth to the community. Throughout the years, besides substantially sponsoring charity works, he also aided reformers, warlords and the Nationalist government. During World War I, he even gave financial support to the British Empire. For all his contributions, Hotung was recognised in the local community as the “grand old man of Hong Kong”, while officially, he was knighted by King George V as Knight Bachelor in 1915 and then by Queen Elizabeth II as Knight Commander in 1955. He was the only person knighted twice in the history of Hong Kong. He was buried at the Hong Kong Cemetery Hotung died of pneumonia at his residence in 1956 at the age of 93. Perhaps most people would presume that Hotung was laid to rest at the Chiu Yuen Cemetery located at Mount Davis, where many of Ho’s family members were buried, but it was at the then-Colonial Cemetery in Happy Valley, now called the Hong Kong Cemetery, where Hotung was laid to rest. His first wife, Margaret Mak Sau-ying, was buried beside him. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .