Macau’s gambling king has died at the ripe old age of 98.
Stanley Ho was born in Hong Kong in 1921. He would flee the city for Macau in 1942 after the Japanese army arrived. When he first came to Macau, he was almost broke.
In Macau, Ho made his first fortune by helping to smuggle luxury goods across the Chinese border during World War II. Eventually, he and his partners would use their money to acquire Macau’s gaming monopoly license, allowing Ho to build a business empire that would turn him into one of Asia’s richest men.
Ho would hold that monopoly license until 2002, helping to transform Macau into a gambling haven to rival and then surpass Las Vegas. Nowadays, Macau’s gambling revenue is five times that of Las Vegas.
Including his iconic Grand Lisboa, Ho owned 19 casinos in Macau, two more than the number of legitimate children that he fathered with his four wives (polygamy remained legal in Hong Kong until 1971). Last year, he made headlines by gifting his 28-year-old daughter a $64 million home for her engagement.
Things have not always been so harmonious in his family, however. In 2011, a legal battle erupted among his wives and children over his fortune, forcing Ho to do some restructuring. He stepped down as head of his flagship SJM Holdings in 2018, handing over control to one of his daughters, Daisy Ho, and his fourth wife, Angela Leong.
Ho loved to ballroom dance — especially the tango, waltz, and the cha-cha-cha. But, in 2009, he suffered a fall at home that would result in brain surgery and him being forced to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
He died at a Hong Kong hospital on Tuesday afternoon. No cause of death has been reported but one of his daughters said that he passed away peacefully.