Stanley Ho, who was known as the “King of Gambling,” died in his sleep at age 98, family members confirmed.
For more than four decades Ho ran various casinos in and around China. He maintained his empire even after foreign casinos were allowed into the country starting in 2002. Living in Macao he was thought to be the richest person in the entire region.
Half Chinese and half European he fathered a total of 17 children during his life. Their exploits were often the fodder of the tabloid press.
Ho took legal action after the transfer of his entire multibillion-dollar stake to five of his children and one of his wives. He insisted it was a “robbery” that went against his desire to divide the fortune equally among various branches of his family.
After several lawsuits, Ho eventually transferred most of his SJM shares to family members while officially remaining chairman until he retired at age 96.
He was a lavish spender and accomplished ballroom dancer who wielded great influence both in Macao and in neighboring Hong Kong. He was accused of being connected to organized crime, but those accusations were never proven.
Ironically, he himself never gambled.
“I don’t gamble at all. I don’t have the patience,” Ho told The Associated Press in a rare interview in 2001. “Don’t expect to make money in gambling. It’s a house game. It’s for the house.”
He also had stakes in businesses that ran everything from the ferries and helicopters connecting Hong Kong and Macao, to department stores, hotels, Macao’s airport and its horse-racing tracks. In nearly every endeavor he entered into he found a way to make money.
During the second world war During the war, he earned money running nighttime smuggling and trading trips up the Pearl River Delta, surviving a pirate attack on one occasion.
“Macao treated me so well. I went there with 10 dollars in my pocket and became a millionaire before the age of 20,” Ho said.
In 2007, he paid $8.9 million for a bronze horse head taken by French troops 150 years ago from China’s imperial palace so he could donate it to a Chinese museum. He also twice bid a record $330,000 for truffles at charity auctions.