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Ho case emphasises the value of family unity

Macao casino billionaire Stanley Ho has settled a succession dispute with his family that had threatened to destabilise the tycoon’s $8 billion gambling empire. 

In a statement released by the group holding company SJM Holdings on 10 March, 89-year-old Ho said that “all members of the Ho family have reached full and final agreement based on the principle of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation.” 

The statement did not reveal details of that agreement or who would succeed Ho, currently chairman of SJM, as head of his empire, but simply that the family feud was over. 

The infighting erupted in January when Ho accused members of his family of stealing shares in SJM Holdings without his consent, leaving Ho with a minority share in the business. (Continue reading here) The case escalated as Ho initiated legal action to reclaim control of SJM Holdings, only to stop the proceedings shortly after. 

The family always denied the allegations, claiming that the transactions took place with Ho’s consent. The billionaire’s family includes four women he calls his wives and at least 16 known children, a potential minefield for good corporate governance.

The family drama received media attention across the world, but has done little for SJM’s share price which slumped to a low of HK$10.58 at the end of February on the back of the uncertainty, compared with a high of $14.98 on 19 January. Yesterday’s announcement saw SJM’s share price jump as much as 8%, showing how important family unity is to investor confidence. 

The 89-year-old billionaire has spent over 50 years building his gambling empire in Macau, the only Chinese territory with legal casinos. He was born in 1921 to one of Hong Kong's influential families, the Ho Tung clan. Ho left Hong Kong and went to Macau before World War II, and has been building his business ever since.

Following brain surgery in 2009, his health deteriorated, further increasing speculations about who would take control of the company.

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