Macau gambling king Stanley Ho dies aged 98

Shares of the companies in the family empire surged after the news. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: Macau gambling king Stanley Ho, who built a business empire from scratch in the former Portuguese colony and became one of Asia’s richest men, died on Tuesday at the age of 98, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

The flamboyant tycoon, who loved to dance but advised his nearest and dearest to shun gambling, headed one of the world’s most lucrative gaming businesses through his flagship firm, SJM Holdings Ltd, valued at about US$6 billion.

Shares of the companies in the family empire surged after the news.

SJM rose as much as 8.5%, passenger transport firm Shun Tak Holdings Ltd jumped 17.6% and casino operator Melco climbed 4.9%, outpacing a 2% gain for the benchmark index.

Born in Hong Kong, Ho had four wives and 17 known children and was forced to restructure his business after a legal battle erupted within the family in 2012 over his fortune.

Analysts do not expect his death to have a big impact on day-to-day operations.

His privately held company, Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau, or STDM, has stakes in everything from luxury hotels to helicopters and horse racing.

Ho spearheaded what is known in Macau as the junket VIP system, whereby middlemen act on behalf of casinos by extending credit to gamblers and taking responsibility for collecting debts.

Some of Ho’s children have become successful gaming operators in their own right.

Daughter Pansy is the co-chairperson of MGM Resorts’ Macau unit while son Lawrence runs Melco Resorts & Entertainment.