Macao casino billionaire Stanley Ho has accused his family of stealing his shares in SJM Holdings without his consent, raising debate about who would succeed Ho in the billion-dollar business.
A filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange reveals that Ho's shares in the holding company have been divided between his wives and children. Ho, chairman of SJM, said through his lawyer that he had not authorised this transfer of shares to his family.
Ho originally held a 32% stake in SJM through a series of holdings, but is now left with minimum stake in the business. According to reports, Ho's third wife Chan Un-chan received slightly more than half of his shares, and the rest were split evenly among the five children he had with his second wife. But earlier last year, Ho had apparently given his fourth wife a separate stake directly in SJM, making her the managing director of the holding company that controls most of his gambling empire.
The family has denied the allegations of stealing and claim that the transactions took place with Ho's consent. But according to his lawyer, Ho had always planned to split his holdings equally among all the family members. Experts say that if this is the case, three branches of the family would hold controlling stakes in SJM – a potential mine field for good corporate governance.
The 89-year-old billionaire has spent over 50 years building his gambling empire in Macau, the only Chinese territory with legal casinos. His family includes four women he calls his wives and at least 17 known children.
Stanley Ho was born in 1921 to one of Hong Kong's influential families, the Ho Tung clan. He 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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