Hong Kong-born billionaire Stanley Ho – known as the “King of Gambling” after transforming once-sleepy Macau into the world’s biggest casino centre – has died aged 98.
In a statement, one of his daughters, Pansy, said: “With a heavy heart, we are very sad to confirm my father passed away peacefully in the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital.”
The family of the flamboyant tycoon, an accomplished ballroom dancer who had four wives and 17 known children, did not reveal the cause of death.
Mr Ho became one of Asia’s richest men after building an empire from scratch.
He headed one of the world’s most lucrative gaming businesses through his flagship firm, SJM Holdings Ltd – valued at about $6bn (£4.9bn).
But despite enjoying a 40-year monopoly on casinos in the former Portuguese colony, off the south coast of China, he advised family and friends to shun the industry.
“Don’t expect to make money in gambling,” he said during a rare interview in 2001.
“It’s a house game. It’s for the house.”
Mr Ho also had stakes in businesses that run everything from the ferries and helicopters connecting Hong Kong and Macau, to department stores, hotels, Macau’s airport and its horse-racing tracks.
In 2009, he had brain surgery after reportedly hitting his head during a fall at his home, and after leaving hospital seven months later, he was rarely seen in public again.
Not long after, in 2011, he was involved in a very public family feud over control of his casino empire.
He disputed a supposed transfer of his entire stake to five of his children and one of his wives, calling it a “robbery” that went against his desire to divide the fortune equally among his family.
The row eventually ended when he settled several lawsuits and transferred most of his SJM shares to relatives – and he officially remained chairman until his retirement two years ago.
Mr Ho is survived by three of his wives and 16 children, after his eldest son Robert, was killed in a car crash in Portugal in 1981.
Pansy Ho is co-chair of rival MGM’s Macau casino business, while son Lawrence runs another competitor, Melco.
Another daughter, Josie, is an actress and singer, who had a role in the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film Contagion.
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