Casino boss’s sister bids against house

Winnie Ho, younger sister of Macau casino kingpin Stanley Ho, has offered to buy out his stake in the company that controls 16 of Macau’s 23 casinos.

Winnie Ho claims Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) owes her about HKD 3 billion (AUD 491 million) in dividends for the past five years for her 8 per cent stake. Ms Ho, 83, has filed more than 30 lawsuits against her brother for owing her money, defamation, and over shareholding structures.

„We don’t need all these lawyers if he plays by the rules and the law and pays me back the money he owes me,“ she said in a televised interview. „But that’s just Stanley, always thinking he can just walk over anybody.“

The legal disputes between Mr Ho and his estranged sister have stalled a planned HKD 15 billion share sale since May.

Macau’s casino market has boomed since Mr Ho’s four-decade monopoly ended in 2002, with Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts building casinos and tourists flocking from the mainland.

Other new players include a joint venture between James Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd and Melco International. Melco is run by Stanley Ho’s son Lawrence Ho, though the patriarch retains a stake. Melco-PBL, which last week missed out in the bidding for a Singapore casino, has filed plans for a USD 1.1 billion (AUD 1.4 billion) float of its Macau casino interests on the US Nasdaq market.

Stanley Ho’s law firm, Herbert Smith, said in a letter that he and his company rejected „all of Madam Winnie Ho’s allegations“. Mr Ho would not comment further because of continuing legal proceedings, the letter said. His spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an interview request.

Winnie Ho helped run the company’s casinos for 25 years before being fired as executive director in December 2001, and claims STDM‘s shareholder meetings were improperly convened. Stanley Ho claimed the company lost the shareholders‘ registry.

STDM controls 80 per cent of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau SA, or SJM, which operates Mr Ho’s casinos.

He tried to buy his sister’s stake in 2005 „at a very unreasonable price“, she said in the interview, recorded last week. „So I told him, ‚Why don’t I buy out your share instead?‘ He claimed he was not optimistic about the company’s future.“

His stake is about 25 per cent, though the family owns more. The Forbes 2006 Rich List estimates Mr Ho’s net worth at about USD 6.5 billion.

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