Who was Stanley Ho, the Great Gatsby of Hong Kong gambling who died at 98 – La Stampa


A great dancer, a former Hong Kong tennis champion, torch bearer at the 2008 Olympics, 17 children of four wives, he lived almost a century and has transformed an island of fishermen dedicated to fireworks and incense in the Las Vegas of Asia . Farewell to Stanley Ho, Hong Kong billionaire known as the King of Gambling, cousin of Bruce Lee, a patriarch who made himself all alone, coming out of an unfortunate branch of a dynasty that dates back to his grandfather, an entrepreneur of Dutch Jewish successor Charles Bosman arrived in Hong Kong in the mid-1800s. The man who made Macau the center of the world’s largest gambling is dead.

A face tells many things. The penetrating and awake eyes, until the last breath, the grin of those who know it long and have no time to waste, the gentle and elegant Eurasian tycoon in a century of life has seen it in all colors. And in his case, even if he has never been convicted, crossing the path also with the ill-will that inevitably gravitates in the gaming industry.

He is said to have had an iron fist, well hidden by a velvet glove, a man with a brain, stomach and charm who had built a reputation as a benevolent uncle, who knew how to bring out so much ruthlessness and sometimes malice. Out of nowhere, he created a publicly listed real estate financial empire. He missed a few shots and left leaving a gift from the afterlife, an 8.5% jump in the title of one of his most important companies, the STM which controls 20 casinos on an island of 25 square km.

Ho was born in Hong Kong on November 25, 1921. And it seems like a good start. The family is part of the wealthy Ho Tung clan, the sons of that Bosman who had Chineseized the name of Ho Sze Man. Uncle Robert Hotung had already been knighted twice in Britain. But the crisis of 1929 ruined everyone and a few years later his father Ho Sai Kwong abandoned a newly adolescent Stanley to take care of his mother and two sisters. Then he earned a scholarship to Hong Kong University. But when the Japanese invaded the British colony, he fled to the Portuguese colony, Macau.

There he began trading in fuel and airplanes. He found himself aboard a cargo ship that was attacked by pirates. Legend has it that he managed to free himself and, in punches, win a gun by putting thieves on the run. The owners gave him a 1 million Hong Kong dollar reward with which he began his long ascent. As a good Bel Ami, he married a wealthy heiress from Macau and began to expand his business.

His great intuition was to jump into the casino business. Gambling is prohibited in communist China, but mainland Chinese are allowed to travel in a group to go to Macau, and what they make of their money is their business. Then permission to travel alone came. And so Macau’s takings for decades were a barometer of the Chinese economy, given that two thirds of the players come from Communist China.

Wife after wife, son after son, Stanley Ho, who was also a horse collector, conquered the gambling monopoly in 1961, then returned to Hong Kong buying houses and offices, one building after another. In 1984, he inaugurated a casino in Portugal. In 2000, he invested $ 30 million to open Pyong Yang Casino in North Korea. When, in 2001, his monopoly ends because China does

Macau resumes, American and Australian competitors arrive. But he does not lose heart because the Chinese economy is starting to get stronger and the proceeds for everyone are growing.

Of course, he has received many accusations that he has collaborated with the triads, organized crime in Hong Kong. Especially for opening hidden VIP rooms, controlled by them, where it is more difficult to control earnings. Prostitutes, drugs, rackets and usury were on the agenda. He has always denied it. And above all, he has always imposed on children and wives, who now share his empire in fights with lawyers and tricks, to never bet and to avoid gambling as if it were poison.

Eleven years ago, just before he slipped into the bathroom and then underwent three brain surgeries which, however, failed to stop him, until yesterday, in a public speech he said: “Gambling should never be a formula based on I win and you lose. This is my long-term vision. Even if I’m not a gambler, I’d bet this is one of the best bets to bet on. ”

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