Stanley Ho ends era at SJM Holdings

Stanley Ho, known as the king of gambling, has formally retired from his post as chairman of SJM Holdings, ending a near six-decade career in Macau’s gambling industry.

The board announced after the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday that Ho would be appointed as chairman emeritus of the company.

“Dr. Ho has justifiably been acknowledged as the founding father of Macau’s gaming industry, which has for some time been the largest in the world in terms of revenue,” it said in a stock exchange statement. “Under Dr. Ho’s visionary leadership, the group achieved significant growth in the past decade. The Board expresses its sincere gratitude to Dr. Ho for his invaluable contributions in building a solid foundation for the company’s continuing growth in the future.”

Ho, 96, was born into the powerful Ho-Tung clan in Hong Kong, enjoying a life of wealth and privilege before the Great Depression bankrupted his father. He was forced to abandon his studies at Hong Kong University and fled to Macau when the Japanese invaded in 1942.

It was there he developed his entrepreneurial flare and made his fortune. He told CNN in a 2004 interview that he landed with $10 in his pocket and within a year had made a million.

He used that cash to win Macau’s gambling monopoly rights in 1962, a position his company enjoyed until the government opened the market to competition in 2002.

SJM’s Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau unit, controls 22 of Macau’s 41 casinos as well as a string of other business interests that extend his reach into most corners of life, including the Macau Jockey Club, Shun Tak Holdings, which operates the ferries and hydrofoils shipping gamblers into the territory and a stake in Macau’s international airport.

However, the company has been losing market share to its competitors and analysts see this as a trend that is likely to continue, at least until its Lisboa Palace opens on the Cotai strip. The resort isn’t expected to make its debut before late 2019.

The company has put in place a new management structure, which analysts have called a missed opportunity for a shakeup and new blood at the company.

Daisy Ho, Stanley’s daughter was named chairman,  while Timothy Fok and Angela Leong, SJM’s managing director and Ho’s fourth wife, were named co-chairs. Ambrose So, CEO of SJM has also been elevated to Vice-Chairman while retaining his CEO role.

“We see no real positive changes to management that could turn the company in the right direction,” Bernstein wrote in an April note.