HONG KONG • A new alliance has emerged among some of billionaire Stanley Ho's 17 children in the decade-long battle for his Macau casino empire, and eldest daughter Pansy looks the likely victor.
Ms Ho announced that she had joined up with some siblings and the Henry Fok Foundation and would hold a combined 53 per cent in Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), which controls casino operator SJM Holdings.
The alliance gives her the upper hand over Ms Angela Leong, the fourth wife of 97-year-old Ho, and her main rival in the battle for control of Macau's original gaming company. Ms Leong holds 8 per cent of SJM.
The news of the alliance helped send shares in SJM up more than 8 per cent last Thursday, while Shun Tak Holdings - Ms Ho's property to transport conglomerate - rose 6 per cent, as investors expected more stability in SJM's ownership.
The move comes ahead of the expiration of casino licences in the world's biggest gambling hub of Macau, where SJM and MGM's licences are set to expire next year.
The concessionaires, which also include Wynn Macau, Sands Macau, Galaxy Entertainment and Melco Resorts, do not have clarity yet on what happens when their licences expire, starting next year.
Macau is the only place in China where casinos are allowed.
Born into a family that developed a flourishing gambling culture in the southern Chinese territory more than 50 years ago, Ms Ho is spearheading a move to ensure stability, aiming to extend SJM's gaming concession and maintain STDM as the majority owner of SJM.
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Born in 1962 to Mr Stanley Ho and his second wife Lucina Laam King-ying, Ms Ho studied marketing and business at Santa Clara University in California before pursuing a brief TV acting career in Hong Kong.
She ended up running Shun Tak Holdings, which operates ferry and helicopter services linking Hong Kong and Macau. She was appointed managing director of Shun Tak during Macau's handover from Portugal to China in 1999, and became chairman after her father stepped down in 2017. She helped form MGM China in a joint venture with billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's MGM Resorts.
Billionaire Leong is co-chairman of SJM Holdings, one of six firms authorised to operate casinos in Macau, and is an STDM director. SJM has 20 casinos, about 1,700 gaming tables and over 2,400 slot machines.
She was born into a wealthy military family in Guangzhou in 1961. She met the tycoon in 1986, and backed by him, built a sprawling property business. She also became a member of the Legislative Council of Macau.
The tycoon's son with Ms Laam worked at Citibank and Jardine Fleming after returning to Hong Kong from studies at the University of Toronto.
Despite being quoted as saying he does not like gambling, he joined the family business. In 2006, he became chairman and chief executive officer of Melco International Development, a Hong Kong-listed entertainment group, which includes Nasdaq-listed Melco Resorts & Entertainment. He ended a partnership with Australian billionaire James Packer after working on four casinos together.
After obtaining a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Southern California and a master's of business administration degree in finance at the University of Toronto, she became chairman and executive director of SJM Holdings. She is also Shun Tak Holdings' chief financial officer. She has been a committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of Tianjin since 2008.