It is a tale worthy of Shakespeare.
Billionaire Stanley Ho, the 89-year old godfather of a casino business empire based in Macau in southern China, is battling members of his own family over the control of companies that comprise his immense wealth.
At the crux of the matter is the proposed transfer of shares to his third wife and the five children of his second wife. (Ho has been married four times and fathered at least 17 children).
On Monday, SJM Holdings Ltd., the Macau-based casino operator said that Ho transferred his shares of Lanceford Co. Ltd. (the biggest shareholder of SJM) to the aforementioned family members). In essence, Lanceford controls the majority of his wealth invested in casinos and other assets,
Ho claims that share restructuring leaves him with “almost nothing.”
Such a transfer is being described as “robbery” his Hong King-based attorney, Gordon Oldham. However, his family members claim the transaction was already approved by Ho (and have produced a letter from Ho that seems to confirm that).
Dr. Ho believes that his interest in Lanceford, which contains the bulk of his assets, has had share transfers taking place by his second and third family, said Oldham. The effect of which is to dilute him (his assets) to almost nothing, well to nothing, and this is again without his knowledge, without his consent and certainly against his wishes.
Ho and his lawyer have presented an ultimatum to his family members -- that the proposed transaction of shares should be nullified or they would commence legal action against them in Hong Kong’s High Court.
In response, Lanceford’s shareholders said they may file their own case against Ho’s lawyers, accusing them of having “rushed to publicize these matters without checking the underlying facts in connection with the relevant transactions and we reserve our rights against that firm.”
SJM Holdings said in a statement that the Ho family dispute “doesn’t directly affect the company” and that there won’t be a “material change in the management or strategic direction.”
This is hardly the first time that Ho has fought with family members over the spoils of his huge empire. Even his own sister Winnie once challenged him for control of his assets.
It would be a shame if Dr Ho were to become embroiled in a courtroom drama in his twilight years, Oldham told the BBC, but he's fully prepared for that if necessary.
Ho originally built his wealth by successfully securing rights to build a casino monopoly in Macau in the 1960s (when it was owned by the Portuguese). He now operated twenty casinos, as well as extensive interests in real estate, banking and transportation.
Ho maintained his casino monopoly in Macau until 2004, when new concessions were granted to such companies as Wynn Resorts Ltd (Nasdaq: WYNN) and Las Vegas Sands Corp (NYSE: LVS).