Macau’s ‘founding father’ Stanley Ho rides off into casino sunset

TAGs: Macau, Macau Legend Development Ltd, SJM Holdings, stanley ho

macau-casino-founding-father-stanley-hoAsian casino icon Stanley Ho has officially stepped down as chairman of Macau’s original casino operator SJM Holdings.

The 96-year-old Ho signaled his intention to relinquish his chairman’s seat in April, and the move was formally approved at SJM’s annual general meeting this week. Ho’s daughter Daisy was duly elected to her father’s former position, while directors Timothy Fok and Ho’s ‘fourth wife’ Angela Leong will serve as co-chairs.

SJM elevated Ho to the newly created position of chairman emeritus in recognition of his “invaluable contributions” to the growth of not only SJM but the entire Macau market. SJM lauded Ho as “the founding father of Macau’s gaming industry” and credited his “visionary leadership” for helping SJM achieve its “significant growth” over the past decade.

SJM may have grown in relative terms but its share of Macau’s overall casino market has shrunk dramatically in recent years, hitting an all-time low of 16.1% in 2017. The company is the only one of Macau’s six casino concessionaires yet to open a property on the Cotai strip, and the in-development Grand Lisboa Palace won’t launch until 2019 at the earliest.

Macau’s concessionaires are heading into an uncertain license renewal process, with SJM and MGM China’s licenses set to expire in 2020, while the other four concessions expire two years later. SJM recently floated the idea of extending its term by two years in order to harmonize the six concessions and ensure everyone starts off on the same footing.

Macau’s government has been cagey on the concession renewal process, with Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Vai Tac suggesting last summer that the operators would be required to ‘rebid’ for their licenses rather than enjoy relatively automatic renewal.

Some casino operators – such as Macau Legend Development Ltd, which operates under SJM’s umbrella – are advocating expanding the number of concessionaries. Macau Legend’s chairman David Chow, himself a former Macau legislator, urged the local government to consider issuing two additional concessions when the renewal/rebidding process begins in earnest.

Chow said smaller local companies like his would face serious obstacles if they were forced into a bidding war with Macau’s well-capitalized casinos giants. Chow therefore urged the government to craft policies that were “tilted in favor” of local firms.

Speaking last week, SJM CEO Ambrose So offered cautious support for Chow’s suggestion, saying that while there was likely room at the table for at least one more concessionaire, it was up to the government to decide whether expanding the number of concessions was “good for the future development of Macau.”


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