segunda-feira, 10 de agosto de 2009

O império de Stanley Ho

Stanley Ho holds the trump cards in sprawling empire
Lieutenants run day-to-day affairs but tycoon wields control

Neil Gough
South China Morning Post
August 10, 2009

Twenty years ago, in a speech during a dinner banquet in Hong Kong, casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun laid out the order of things in his characteristic, only-half-joking style: "If I claim to be No 2 in Macau, nobody dares to claim to be No 1."

Indeed, as news broke last week that the 87-year-old billionaire had undergone surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain, serious questions were raised about what Macau might look like if both its top slots sat empty.

Among four wives (three are living), 17 children and a stable cadre of long-time lieutenants, Mr Ho has yet to anoint a clear successor.

To date, any succession plans he has made remain known only to him and, perhaps, a trusted few.

The flamboyant tycoon, who once said he wanted to retire by 55, remains today firmly at the helm of a sprawling business empire that has expanded exponentially since he struck out on his own as a kerosene supplier in Macau in the 1940s.

Companies registry filings list Mr Ho as a director of 169 firms, and that is only in Hong Kong.

His often disparate investments range from a wind energy park in Jiangsu to banking in Mozambique to a casino in North Korea.

Still, affairs at Mr Ho's two most prominent firms are relatively established and straightforward.

While he remains chairman of locally listed Shun Tak Holdings and SJM Holdings, which have a combined market capitalisation of HK$25.7 billion, based on Friday's closing share prices, he has largely handed over day-to-day control and management of the companies.

Shipping, real estate and hotel developer Shun Tak has since 1999 been effectively run by three of Mr Ho's daughters, including managing director Pansy Ho Chiu-king and deputy managing director and chief financial officer Daisy Ho Chiu-fung. The management of SJM Holdings, which debuted on the Hong Kong stock market last summer as the vehicle for Mr Ho's Macau gaming licence and the Grand Lisboa casino hotel, is largely in the hands of veterans from the earlier days of Mr Ho's former gaming monopoly.

Between them, SJM chief executive Ambrose So Shu-fai and chief operating officer Louis Ng Chi-sing have worked in Mr Ho's casinos for 64 years.

Mr Ho's fourth wife, Angela Leong On-kei, also serves as an SJM director and is a sitting legislator in Macau. In the years since the 2001 shift from a gaming monopoly to oligopoly, she has cultivated strong relationships among the VIP junket agents and franchise casino operators that account for a large swathe of SJM's market share in Macau.

Instead, the most probable conundrum to result from Mr Ho's absence would centre on the ownership and direction of Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau.

STDM is the private Macau conglomerate that has ultimately controlled most of Mr Ho's casino, property and transport businesses since 1962, when he won the gaming monopoly along with co-founders Henry Fok Ying-tung, gambling expert Yip Hon and race car aficionado Teddy Yip.

Today, STDM remains SJM's biggest shareholder, through STDM-Investments, with a 61 per cent stake.

The firm also holds separate stakes in casinos in Macau, Portugal, Vietnam and North Korea, as well as investments in five Macau hotels, real estate, department stores, the Macau airport, a fleet of corporate jets, a cross-border helicopter service, shipping and dredging operations and the Macau horse and dog-racing tracks.

STDM's 44 disparate shareholders include the Henry Fok Ying Tung Foundation, whose 26.58 per cent stake is looked after by Mr Fok's younger son, Ian Fok Chun-wan.

New World Development and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises chairman Cheng Yu-tung, who acquired much of co-founder Yip Hon's stake in 1982, has a 9.6 per cent interest and serves as the chairman of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, SJM's main Macau subsidiary.

Mr Ho's estranged sister, Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, holds a 7.35 per cent stake and has filed dozens of lawsuits against her brother alleging unpaid dividends and challenging the composition of STDM's registry of shareholders.

Ms Leong and third wife Chan Un-chan hold equal 0.235 per cent stakes, while Pansy Ho holds direct and indirect interests in the firm. Both Ms Leong and Pansy Ho are directors of STDM.

Foremost among all is Mr Ho, who serves as managing director of STDM and a unifying presence among an otherwise somewhat disjointed roster of shareholders.

His 32.2 per cent stake in STDM is the largest, and he is the last surviving founder of the firm.

For now, nobody else would dare to claim to be No 1.

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