Stanley Ho Biography
When it comes to gambling in Asia, few figures can rival Stanley Ho, the billionaire entrepreneur who's almost single-handedly responsible for the rise of Macau as a global gaming mecca. Among his rather impressive list of nicknames are "The King of Macau," "The King of Gambling," and "The Underground Governor."
This biography is meant to provide an overview of Stanley Ho, from his early life to the various awards and accolades he's accumulated. I'll also provide a detailed list of his 17 children and their various accomplishments, as well as a discussion of their inevitable battle over his estate.
Stanley Ho, born Ho Hung Sun, came into the world on November 25th, 1921 in British-controlled Hong Kong. The ninth child to be born to Ho Sai Kwong and Flora Sin, he was part of an influential family that boasted ties to Sir Robert Hotung, a successful businessman often referred to as "The Grand Old Man of Hong Kong."
While Ho was still a child, 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 was an academic underachiever early on, attending Queen's College and taking the lowest level classes available to a Hong Kong student. However, he eventually realized that an education was his best chance of regaining the fortune that his family had once been accustomed to, so he renewed his efforts and received a scholarship to the University of Hong Kong (the first-ever student from his class level to do so).
Moving to Macau
While Stanley Ho had intended to study at the University of Hong Kong, fate had other plans. The beginning of World War II led to an invasion by the Japanese, and he was forced to flee to Macau.
This provided the necessary spark to ignite his entrepreneurial spirit, and it started with a job at a Japanese-owned import-export firm. Ho smuggled luxury items into China, and doing so enabled him to amass a small fortune. With this money, he launched both a construction and kerosene company and slowly built his personal empire.
The Gambling Business
Along with partners Yip Hon, Teddy Yip, and Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok, Stanley Ho decided to pursue the lucrative gambling monopoly in Macau. In order to wrest control away from the entrenched Fu family, they promised to build up the city's infrastructure and heavily promote tourism. The pitch worked, and in 1962 they were awarded the gambling monopoly from the controlling Portuguese government.
This led to the creation of Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau, S.A.R.L. (STDM), as well as Ho's Shun Tak Holdings, Ltd. The entrepreneur quickly branched out into a number of business ventures, including hotels, banking, air transport, and entertainment. At the height of his power, it's estimated that Ho controlled over half of the economy of Macau.
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.
Stanley Ho's Family and Their Inevitable Feud
The phrase "be fruitful and multiply" certainly applies to Stanley Ho, as he's produced a total of 17 children with four different women. While polygamy was outlawed in China in 1950 thanks to Chairman Mao, it was quite common in traditional Chinese culture as a way to produce male offspring. Stanley Ho has carried the ancient way of thinking into modern times, although it's unclear how many of his brides have actually married him in lawful ceremonies.
Ho's children range from senior citizens to the relatively young. Some stay out of the public eye, while others are frequent users of social media. The Asian tabloids love the Ho family, as the sheer number of children and grandchildren guarantees a wealth of personalities and news items.
During his life, Ho has referred to the following women as his "wives":
- Clementina Leitao
Ho's first wife came from a prominent Portuguese family, and the couple had four children together after marrying in 1942. In 1973, she was in a car crash that resulted in partial memory loss, and afterwards she required constant care from a team of nurses. She passed away in 2004.
- Lucina Laam King Ying
Ho met this wife in the late 1950s, and the two bonded over a mutual love of ballroom dancing. He legally married her in Hong Kong in 1962. After Ho invested heavily in Canada during the 1980s, she immigrated there and has been living quietly ever since. The couple had five children together
- Ina Chan Un Chan
After Clementina Leitao's automobile accident, she required around-the-clock attention by a staff of nurses. Ho's third wife was one of the women brought in to look after her in 1977, and the couple would later marry in 1985 and have three children together. Often regarded as the most low-key of Ho's wives.
- Angela Leong On Kei
Ho and Mrs. Leong have been together since 1988, when the pair met at a private ball (she's a former dance instructor). The couple had five children together, with Leong eventually taking on a large role within Ho's business empire. She's also entered the political arena in recent years, becoming a member of the legislature of Macau.
Now let's take a look at the many children sired by Stanley Ho over the decades. Since there are so many, I've broken them down according to their mothers. When possible, I've also included a small amount of biographical information for your reading pleasure.
- Jane Ho Chiu Ying
Born in 1947, Ho's eldest daughter studied law in the UK and was once considered among the most successful businesswomen in Asia. She passed away in 2014 after struggling with the effects of Churg-Strauss Syndrome for seven years (which causes inflammation of the blood vessels).
- Robert Ho Yau Kwong
Ho's eldest son was born in 1948. In 1981, he and wife Melanie Susan Potier were killed in a car crash in Portugal.
- Angela Ho Chiu Yin
- Deborah Ho Chiu Hung
- Pansy Ho Chiu King
Born in 1962, this daughter has served as the managing director of both Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau and Shun Tak Holdings, as well as the co-chair of MGM China. A billionaire with an estimated fortune of $3.8 billion, she holds the distinction of being the richest woman in Hong Kong.
- Daisy Ho Chiu Fung
Born in 1964, this daughter also serves as a director at Shun Tak Holdings.
- Maisy Ho Chiu Ha
- Josie Ho Chiu Yi
An award-winning Hong Kong actress and singer. Born in 1974 and married to Conroy Chan, she has described herself as the "little black sheep" of the family.
- Lawrence Ho Yau Lung
The eldest living son of Stanley Ho, he received his education in Canada and then went on to become a billionaire by running three Macau casinos in conjunction with Aussie James Packer.
- Florinda Ho Chiu Wan
Born in 1989. Once involved in a tabloid love triangle with Asian celebrities Pakho Chau and Joel Chan San Chung.
- Laurinda Ho Chiu Lin
Born in 1991. Romantically linked to several Asian celebrities, including Kai Ko and Alex Fong (although she denied the latter).
- Orlando Ho Yau Kai
Also born in 1991, Orlando is the twin of Laurinda. Received his education in the United States at Boston University.
- Sabrina Ho Chiu Yeng
Born in 1990, she's served as the CEO of Poly Auction Macau Ltd, as well as being the founder and CEO of Chiu Yeng Culture Limited and the owner of Regency Hotel Macau.
- Arnaldo Ho Yau Heng
Born in 1993. Linked to a number of female celebrities, including Moon Lau, Grace Chan, and Jeannie Chan.
- Mario Ho Yau Kwan
Born in 1995, this youngest living son of Stanley Ho is a former MIT student and fan of European football. He's also made plenty of tabloid headlines in Asia, as he was once romantically linked to Kim Lim, a billionaire heiress and one of the so-called "Rich Kids of Singapore."
- Alice Ho Chiu Yan
Born in 1999. The youngest living child of Stanley Ho.
- Orlando Ho
Born in 1997, this youngest son of Stanley Ho tragically passed away in 2004 at the age of seven.
The trouble between the family members started in 2009, when Stanley Ho suffered a serious fall at his home and underwent brain surgery. He spent more than seven months in the hospital and has needed the use of a wheelchair ever since.
Since he lacked a definitive will, Ho's offspring began wondering how his sizable fortune would be divided up in the event of his death. This caused various factions of the family to go into crisis mode, and the results were predictably ugly.
In early 2011, the dispute boiled over regarding the transfer of ownership of Lanceford, Ho's private holding company. Lanceford suddenly issued more than 9,900 new shares, and all of these were purchased by a pair of companies in the Virgin Islands belonging to a coalition of wives and children. Ho said that the move left him with "almost nothing."
Later, he appeared on television for a press conference to assure the public that the family squabbles were behind them. Just a short time later, however, his lawyers issued court proceedings accusing his second and third wives, along with some of their children, of "improperly and illegally" changing the share structure of the company.
After months of bickering and legal wrangling, a private settlement agreement was reached. Under these terms, the ownership of Lanceford would remain unchanged, while fourth wife Angela Leong On Kei would continue to run SJM Holdings for another six years. Meanwhile, ownership of Ho's massive Macau mansion was transferred to daughter Angela Ho Chiu-yin.
Further details about the specifics of the agreement were not available, but the peace within the family has held for several years. According to an official statement issued in 2011, "A deed of settlement was executed on March 8 between all branches of the Ho family. We have agreed that we shall work together and continue to develop the gambling business in Macau founded by Dr. Ho and operated by the Ho family to enable it to flourish."
Honors Received by Stanley Ho
When you're filthy rich, people are often tripping over themselves to shower you with praise and honors. Billionaire Stanley Ho is no different, and he's racked up a number of accolades over the decades. The following list includes some of the more notable examples.
- Commander of the Order of Benefaction
Presented by the government of Portugal in 1970.
- Commander of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator
Presented by the government of Portugal in 1981.
- Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur
Awarded by the French government in 1983.
- Commander of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem - Presented by the United Kingdom in 1983.
- Honorary Doctorate of Social Sciences
Received from the University of Macau in 1984.
- Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator - Presented by the government of Portugal in 1985.
- Insignia of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
Presented by the Japanese government in 1987.
- Eqvitem Commendatorem Ordinis Sancti Gregorii Magni by His
Holiness Pope John Paul II
The honorary papal insignia was bestowed on Dr. Ho in 1989.
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Ho was granted this recognition in 1990 for his contributions to Hong Kong society.
- Grand Cross of the Order of Merit
Presented by the government of Portugal in 1990.
- Honourable Order of the Crown of Perak
Awarded by the government of Malaysia in 1990.
- Naval Medal, Vasco da Gama
Presented by the government of Portugal in 1991.
- Silver Cross Medal of Social Solidarity
Presented by the government of Spain in 1993.
- Great Cross of the Order of Prince Henrique
Received in 1995 for his contributions to society, this is the highest order granted to a civilian by the Portuguese government.
- Award for Outstanding Achievement
Presented to Ho in 1996 by the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
- Honourable Order of the Crown of Terengganu
Awarded by the government of Malaysia in 1997.
- Ho became the first living Chinese person in history to have a street in Macau named after him when Dr. Stanley Ho Avenue was unveiled in 1998.
- Medal of the Naval Cross, First Class
Presented by the government of Portugal in 1999.
- Honourable Medal of Golden Lotus Flower
Given to those who've rendered a high level of voluntary service within the community of Macau. Awarded in 2001.
- Gold Medal of Merit in Tourism
Presented by the government of Portugal in 2001.
- Gold Bauhinia Star
Once Hong Kong was transferred to the ownership of China, this civilian award replaced the Order of the British Empire. This was received in 2003 for his contributions to Hong Kong's youth services.
- Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur
Awarded by the French government in 2004.
- Chinese Charity Award
Presented with this honor in 2005 and 2008.
- Commander of the Order of the Crown
Presented by the government of Belgium in 2007.
- Grand Medal of Lotus Flower
The highest possible recognition under the Macau honors and awards system, it recognizes a lifelong contribution to the city. Ho received this honor in 2007.
- Medal for Business Entrepreneurialism
Ho received this honor from the city of Cascais in 2008. At the same time, the street next to the Estoril Casino was named Avenida Stanley Ho in his honor, making him the first living Chinese citizen to have a street in Portugal named after them.
- Beijing Olympics Honour
Presented with this award during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
- G2E Asia Visionary Award
Received this honor at the 2009 G2E Asian conference.
- Hong Kong Montblanc Arts Patronage Award
Presented in 2009 by the Montblanc Cultural Foundation.
- Grand Bauhinia Medal
In recognition of his contributions to the overall well-being of Hong Kong, Ho received this highest civilian award in 2010.
In addition to the above honors, Dr. Ho has been made an honorary citizen in the following Chinese cities: Guangzhou, Nanhai, Foshan, Sanshui, Jiangmen, Zhuhai, and Beijing.
He's also been presented with honorary doctoral degrees from the following schools: University of Macau, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The Open University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Stanley Ho has made billions from the gambling industry in Macau, but he's also went to great lengths to improve the overall quality of his adopted home. As he was once said, "Fulfilling my obligations to society is such a wonderful source of happiness and satisfaction."
In addition to creating numerous companies and business ventures, he's been prolific when it comes to having children. Thanks to four wives, Ho has produced a total of 17 offspring over the course of his life.
Now in his nineties, Ho finally has the opportunity to relax after a life spent building an empire. Whether it remains intact after his death, or becomes fragmented thanks to squabbling relatives, remains to be seen.
Author: Shane Rivers
Updated: January 2017