NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Chinese gaming tycoon Stanley Ho has built a vast empire in Macau. Now, after more than four decades as the "Godfather" of Chinese gambling, Ho, is taking a back seat.
On Monday, almost all of Ho's entire 31.655% interest in the parent company of SJM Holdings, Sociedade de Turismo e Diversees de Macau, was transferred to Lanceford Co., a group owned by several of his family members. This leaves Ho with just 100 shares of SDTM, which holds a 56% stake in SJM. SJM said that the transfer of shares will not result in a shift in management or strategic direction. An open polygamist, Ho, 89, has had four wives who have borne him 17 children. As his kingdom is offloaded to these wives and children, it once again raises speculation of who will succeed Ho, who last year was hospitalized for several months due to an undisclosed health issue. Lanceford, STDM's largest shareholder, is controlled by Ho's third wife, Chan Unchan, and children of his second wife, Lucina Ho. Unchan holds s 50.55% stake in Lanceford, while his children Pansy, Maisy, Josie and Lawrence, hold the remaining 49.45%. In December, Stanley Ho previously transferred a 7.7% direct stake in SJM to his fourth wife, Angela Leong, who later that month was appointed managing director of STDM. But Ho's transfer of power hasn't been all friendly. On Tuesday shares of SJM were halted on the Hong Kong stock exchange as Stanley Ho accused his family of stealing shares of his business and leaving him with "almost nothing." According to reports, Ho's lawyer said he did not consent the transfer of shares to family members that was announced on Monday. But Ho confirmed on Television Broadcast that issues have been resolved. "My families and I are very happy we have made the decision," he said during the interview. "I have been really unhappy recently because of the disputes, my family members were unhappy as well. I love my families very much." Ho's monopoly in Macau spanned 40 years. During that time, he developed the 18-property casino giant SJM, which includes the flagship Grand Lisboa, a 500-room resort that was built in the shape of a lotus flower, as well as several slot machine lounges. Ho also founded Shun Tak Holdings, which owned high-speed jetfoils that ferried passengers between Hong Kong and Macau. He is also credited with launching the first soccer and baseball lotteries in Macau. Ho's dominance has also been met with controversy, as the gaming mogul has allegedly been linked with Chinese organized crime. In 2002, Ho's monopoly was broken when outside competitors like Las Vegas Sands ( LVS) and Wynn Resorts ( WYNN)were awarded licenses to develop in Macau.
Nonetheless, SJM remains the largest operator in terms of revenue, with a 31% market share. In all, casinos affiliated with the Ho family currently control about 56% of gaming revenue. Stanley Ho's daughter, Pansy, 45, also jointly owns MGM Grand Macau with MGM Resorts ( MGM), while his son Lawrence Ho, 32, is chairman and managing director of Melco Crown Entertainment ( MPEL).
In 2005, New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement reviewed MGM's joint venture with Pansy Ho due to Stanley Ho's alleged links to organized crime. The regulators reopened the case last year, and MGM decided to sell off its Atlantic City Borgata property, rather than break ties with the Ho family in Macau or be subjected to investigation. MGM is currently in the process of filing an initial public offering of its Macau assets on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Regardless of any criticism of Stanley Ho regarding illegal activities, he is credited with developing Macau into a gambling enclave. In 2010, Macau reported a 58% surge in gaming revenue to $23.4 billion, pushing it further ahead of Las Vegas. "In our view, despite any past issues, Stanley Ho has been powerful advocate for Macau gaming for many years," says Sterne Agee analyst David Bain. "Many also see him as a stable leader with a sustainable strategy coinciding with Macau market growth. SJM, as the market share leader in Macau, has not been erratic in its judgments, in our view, even after its monopoly ended." --Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jeanine Poggi. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jpoggi. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.