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Stanley Ho Hung-sun born 25 November, 1921 is the founder and Chairman of SJM Holdings, which owns nineteen casinos in Macau including the Grand Lisboa. Ho has been nicknamed variously Godfather and King of Gambling, reflecting the government-granted monopoly he held on the Macau gambling industry for 40 years. His wealth is divided amongst his daughter Pansy Ho ($5.3 bln) who owns MGM Macau, fourth wife Angela Leong ($4.1 bln) who is managing director of SJM Holdings, and son Lawrence Ho ($2.6 bln) who owns City of Dreams.
While Ho was still a child when his father went bankrupt. This placed the family in an awkward financial situation, and it was only compounded when two of his brothers committed suicide. Ho studied at Queen’s College, Hong Kong, at which he attended Class D – the lowest class level in the then Hong Kong Class System – owing to unsatisfactory academic results. After realizing that studying assiduously was the only way to improve his social status, his hard work paid off and earned him a scholarship to the University of Hong Kong. He became the first student from Class D to be granted a university scholarship. While Stanley Ho had intended to study at the University of Hong Kong, fate had other plans. His university studies were cut short by the outbreak of World War II. In 1942, he fled from the Japanese and settled in Macau.Ho began clerical work at a Japanese-owned import-export firm in Macau. He made his first fortune smuggling luxury goods across the Chinese border from Macau during World War II. In 1943 he set up a kerosene company and established a construction company with his money.
Ho, along with partners, including Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok, Macau gambler Yip Hon and his brother-in-law Teddy Yip, bid for Macau franchises. By bidding high and promising to promote tourism and to develop infrastructure, they won the public tender for Macau’s gaming monopoly, defeating the longtime Macau casino barons, the Fu family. In 1961 the company was renamed Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, S.A.R.L. (STDM). Business at its flagship Lisboa Casino Hotel blossomed, the hotel later to become well-known internationally. Ho is also the founder and Chairman of Shun Tak Holdings, through which he owns many kinds of business including entertainment, tourism, shipping, real estate, banking, and air transport. It is estimated that his enterprises employ almost one fourth of the workforce of Macau.
Through a subsidiary, TurboJET, it owns one of the world’s largest fleets of high-speed jetfoils, which ferries passengers between Hong Kong and Macau. Ho’s investments in Macau are diverse. In 1989, after STDM took full control of the Macau Jockey Club, Ho became its chairman and chief executive officer. In 1998, Ho became the first living Macanese resident to have a local street named after him. He also launched Asia’s first football and basketball lottery called SLOT.While some of his partners were content to be players in Macau, Ho worked hard to spread his influence to other parts of the world. Over the course of several decades, he invested significant amounts of money in Canada, East Timor, Mozambique, Vietnam, Portugal, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and the Philippines. At one point, he even managed to get a casino opened in the basement of a North Korean hotel.
In 2003, Ho donated a Qing dynasty bronze boar head to China’s Poly Art Museum, a state-run organisation dedicated to develop, display, rescue and protect Chinese cultural relics. The boar head is part of a collection of 12 looted from the imperial Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 when it was sacked and burnt by French and British armies. On 21 September 2007, Ho donated to the Chinese government a Qing dynasty bronze sculpture of a horse’s head originally taken from the Old Summer Palace. Ho had reportedly just purchased it from a Taiwanese businessman for US$8.84 million.
In 1984, Ho was awarded an honorary doctorate of social sciences from the University of Macau in 1984. In the New Year Honours 1990, Ho was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) “for services to the community in Hong Kong”. In 1995, the Portuguese government appointed Ho to the Grã-Cruz da Ordem do Infante Dom Henrique (Great Cross of the Order of Prince Henrique), the highest honour for any civilian, for his contributions to society. In 1998, Dr Stanley Ho Avenue in Macau was named, the first Chinese person to be so honoured in Macau during their lifetime.In 2003 Ho received the Gold Bauhinia Star from the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, “Tung Chee Hwa”, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the community, in promoting education, sports and other community services for youth. In 2008 Ho received the Medal for Business Entrepreneurialism from the city of Cascais and the street running adjacent to the Estoril Casino was renamed as Avenida Stanley Ho. It was the first road in Portugal to be named after a living Chinese citizen. In June 2009 he received the Visionary award at the G2E Asia conference, organised by the American Gaming Association; the award was delivered by Macau SAR Chief Executive Edmund Ho. In November 2010 Ho was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal the highest under the Hong Kong honors and awards system, reserved for those making a lifelong and highly significant contribution to the well-being of Hong Kong