Pansy Ho Chiu-king  
(何超瓊)


 


Although she is often portrayed as a party girl, as Managing Director of Shun Tak Holdings, Pansy Ho is amongst Asia's most wealthy and powerful business leaders.   Her father Stanley Ho's wealth is built on the largest casino fortune in Asia, four times larger than the Last Vegas strip!  Their family's empire comprises 40% of Macau's GDP.     She was married to Julian Hui, son of another scion the Central Development family.  The Hui family owns The Central building adjacent to The Landmark and  Father Jenkins Hui is a long-time Jardine Matheson 'associate'  i.e. Director of Mandarin Hotels.      An Asian merger marriage that dissolved as have so many in that stratosphere of 'seriously rich'!   太太

Macau casino operator MGM China, co-owned by MGM Resorts International and Hong Kong businesswoman Pansy Ho, has received US$190 million from four wealthy cornerstone investors for its US$1.5 billion initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson is leading the pack with an investment of US$75 million, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the IPO details.

Las Vegas gaming magnate Kirk Kerkorian is investing US$50 million through his private holding company, Trancinda Corp. The nonagenarian and founder stepped down from MGM Resorts' board in April but remains a senior adviser to the firm.

Hong Kong property tycoons Poon Jing of Asia Standard and Walter Kwok of Sun Hung Kai Properties are investing US$40 million and US$25 million respectively, said the sources, who asked not to be cited by name because details of the IPO are not yet public.

Gaming revenue in Macau, the world's largest gambling market, has soared with unabated demand from mainland visitors, flocking to the only place in China where casino gambling is legal.

Revenues in the former Portuguese enclave reached US$10 billion in the first four months of the year, equalling Las Vegas's earnings for the whole of last year.

Macau's market was likely to remain a hit with investors, said analyst Victor Yip of UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong.

'It seems like the gaming sector is a really hot sector these days, as you can tell from the trading volume, and also from the share price performance of those listed plays,' Mr Yip added. 'I am sure the IPO will show a good number of oversubscriptions.'

The launch of Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd's new US$2 billion casino earlier this week is likely to propel even stronger revenue growth, casino magnate Steve Wynn told reporters on Tuesday.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley are acting as joint global coordinators for MGM China's offering.

Ms Ho, daughter of Stanley Ho - dubbed Macau's casino king for his pervasive influence over the Macau gaming sector - will sell down her 50 per cent existing stake to 29 per cent in MGM China. MGM Resorts will hold 51 per cent while the rest will be sold to the public.

MGM's links with Ms Ho have come under official scrutiny in the United States, with New Jersey's State Division of Gaming Enforcement declaring that Ms Ho was an 'unsuitable' associate due to its belief that her father has links to organised crime, prompting the firm to yield holdings in the state. - Reuters   2011 May 18

Pansy Ho buys 50 percent of casino for $80 million

Casino heiress Pansy Ho has invested US$80 million (HK$624 million) for a half-stake in MGM Grand Paradise, slated to become the city's fifth casino operator.

Ho shares ownership of the MGM Grand Paradise with American casino giant MGM Mirage, which published its agreement with Ho in a filing this week with United States securities regulators.

MGM Grand Paradise is investing about US$775 million to build the MGM Grand Macau casino resort behind the Wynn Macau resort.

The joint venture is paying about US$200 million to Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, the casino company run by Ho's father, Stanley, for the right to operate in Macau. It hopes to open its first project in late 2007.

MGM Mirage's filing revealed that Pansy Ho paid US$12.5 million for her shares in MGM Grand Paradise and extended an interest-free shareholder loan of US$67.5 million to the venture.

MGM Mirage paid US$112.5 million, or nine times more than Ho, for its half of the venture's shares. It also extended an interest-free loan of US$67.5 million and committed to lend an additional US$100 million with interest.

Ho gets to appoint four of the venture's seven directors, who will initially include herself and sister Daisy.

MGM Mirage's appointees, including its chairman and chief executive Terry Lanni, executive vice president Gary Jacobs and MGM Mirage Development president Kenneth Rosevear, get equal voting power on the board, despite being outnumbered. Lanni will serve as chairman and Pansy Ho as managing director. The filing said the venture will pay MGM Mirage a consulting fee equal to 1.75 percent of the cost of the MGM Grand Macau, excluding land cost, for providing development assistance.

A company designated by Ho will receive a development consulting fee of 0.875 percent of costs. MGM Grand Macau will include 2 million square feet of gross floor area, according to the shareholders' agreement.

MGM Grand Paradise is to repay US$30 million of the interest-free shareholder loans each year after the MGM Grand Macau opens, then US$50 million a year once it has paid off the interest-bearing loan from MGM Mirage.

Once the interest-free loans are repaid, MGM Grand Paradise will pay its owners US$30 million in advance dividends each year, or US$50 million if the interest-bearing loan has been paid off.

The agreement addresses a range of contingencies by potentially requiring any partner whose circumstances might change to withdraw from the venture. These include Ho succeeding her father, 83, as managing director of SJM, MGM Mirage's investing in other companies operating casinos in Macau, or MGM Mirage's gross gaming revenue dropping below US$1 billion a year.

MGM Mirage generated US$2.2 billion in casino revenue last year.

Despite the venture's momentum, Nevada regulators have said they are continuing to investigate Pansy Ho, and have yet to give their consent to MGM Mirage forming a partnership with her. -2005 April 29    THE STANDARD   


Macau's 'party girl' bets on future
The former Portuguese colony is booming and Pansy Ho is riding the wave

MACAU, China -- There's more than one renaissance going on in Macau. One involves a corrupt backwater transforming itself into a family destination; the other centres on a party girl turned hard-nosed business executive. But make no mistake -- the one is linked very closely to the other.

The tiny enclave, a former Portuguese colony handed back to China in 1999, often gets lost in the shuffle. Nearby Hong Kong has all the calamities: SARS, pro-democracy struggles, killer ant infestations. Mainland China, meanwhile, gets all the good press with its locomotive-like economy, which accelerated even more to 9.5-per-cent growth in 2004.

That's too bad, because Macau is no slouch in the growth department -- gross domestic product is expected to have increased nine per cent over last year -- and nowhere in China is the pace of change more staggering. Construction cranes are everywhere, land is being reclaimed from the South China Sea at a ferocious clip to accommodate all the new building, and dozens of classic Portuguese-built cultural monuments are being refurbished. Not bad for a place that up until five years ago was known only for its seedy casinos and rampant crime.

As with every good renaissance, there's a powerful family involved. Much like the Medicis in Florence before them, the Ho family called the shots in Macau -- up until recently, that is. Stanley Ho, the 83-year-old patriarch, ruled the roost for almost 40 years and built a casino empire that made him worth somewhere in the realm of $3 billion US. (In the mid-1990s he built a mansion near Vancouver's Stanley Park that generated a good deal of controversy over its bellicose architectural style.)

A new government, under the leadership of York University-educated Edmund Ho -- no relation to the family -- was installed by Beijing after the handover with the mandate of cleaning up Macau and thus clearing its way to economic prosperity. After a severe and effective crackdown on crime, the government in 2002 ended Stanley Ho's gambling monopoly, and U.S. casino developers came flooding in, threatening to steal away that empire.

Who did the aging Ho entrust to fend off the foreign invaders? Enter his daughter, Pansy, a socialite best known for attending parties and dating Canto-pop singers -- a real "party girl," as some of the Hong Kong press dubbed her. Some observers expected Pansy's more serious-minded younger sister Daisy, or even younger brother Lawrence -- both holders of University of Toronto business degrees -- to fill the role of heir.

But in recent years, Pansy -- who got her business degree at the University of Santa Clara in California -- seems to have risen to shoulder the weight of her father's empire, and has undergone a transformation as pronounced as Macau's.

In the mid-1990s, with her father's Shun Tak Holding Ltd. suffering a collapsing share price and declining revenue in its shipping business, Pansy stepped in to engineer a $200 million merger with a rival ferry company on the Hong Kong-Macau route. The result gave Shun Tak a 71-per-cent stake in one of the world's most profitable shipping routes.

Pansy also turned around Shun Tak's troubled property division in 2000, garnering a promotion to managing director of her father's crown-jewel firm, which is valued at around $680 million.

Now, she's pegged as Stanley's heir apparent. But still, the "party girl" tag dogs her. To be fair, she says, it's a reputation that's somewhat justified.

"I can't say that it's absolutely not true. When people say 'party girl,' that implies somebody who loves partying. That's not actually the right interpretation," she says.

Before getting involved with her father's business, Ho explains, she ran a high-society party-planning agency. "I organized them, I needed to attend them . . . . That doesn't translate into the fact that I love to go out partying, and that's all I do."

These days, the 42-year-old divorcee is more concerned with fending off the two new casino developers in town -- U.S.-based Las Vegas Sands Inc. and Wynn Resorts Ltd. Sands opened a big new casino in May, with another on the way in 2007. Wynn, meanwhile, has a complex under construction set for opening in 2006. All feature the usual Las Vegas amenities, with live entertainment, shows, skating rinks, shopping malls and themed attractions. The Ho casinos, meanwhile, seem anachronistically stodgy -- "gambling factories," as one observer puts it, where the games are the only attraction and the smiles are few and far between.

The Hos are learning, however. Stanley Ho in December revamped his New Century Hotel into a Greek Mythology Casino, complete with huge statues of Zeus and Poseidon. Pansy, meanwhile, last summer unveiled a deal with MGM Grand for a new amenity-laden casino, set to open in 2007.

In all, about $2 billion has so far been committed to development.

For some monopolies, the 2002 gambling liberalization would have been a death knell, but Shun Tak saw it as a chance to expand.

"This is a golden opportunity that one could not even have tried to anticipate, but it has come now right in front of us, and we are certainly the best positioned to capture and to make good use of it," Pansy says. Before the liberalization, she explains, banks refused to lend to any companies associated with gambling. Now, with the huge growth potential, "the banks are running after us -- they're volunteering, trying to get a piece of the action."

That action is precipitated primarily on a dramatic increase in tourism, particularly from mainland China. Macau received 15 million visitors in 2004, up from 11 million the year before and 60 per cent from before the handover. Most of those tourists are visiting casinos, and as such, the gambling market keeps growing even as the individual players carve into each other's share.

Canadians have jumped on the bandwagon as well. Although Prime Minister Paul Martin's recent trade mission completely overlooked Macau, several Canadian residents have been proactive in trying to spur development in the region. A chamber of commerce was launched in November as a vehicle to spur Canadian investment.

"There's going to be a huge shortage of well-trained, experienced people with middle management skills," says Neil Johnston, a founder of the chamber and of the International School of Macao. "So Chinese-Canadians who speak Chinese and English will have great opportunities. . . . . We know people and have a good idea of the local regulations, and we can put them in touch with the right people."

Ultimately, much of Macau's future rests in Pansy's hands. Is she up to the task?

"Ten years ago, her dad might have said, 'She's just a playgirl, she's not interested in this,' " says one observer, who asked not to be named. "But I think Pansy has gotten past that and is happy to take on the responsibility -- she's up for it and ready for it." - 2005 February 5    VANCOUVER SUN   

Pansy Ho in casino deal with MGM

MGM Mirage, the third-ranked United States casino company, says it will team up with Pansy Ho Chiu-king, daughter of casino king Stanley Ho Hung-sun, to build and manage a casino in Macau.

The property will be jointly owned and operated by MGM Mirage and Ms Ho, managing director of Shun Tak Holdings, Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage said.

The resort, which will use the "MGM Grand" name, should be open by late 2006, it said.

There was no immediate response from Ms Ho, although the two sides have been widely reported to be in negotiations.

MGM Mirage said the Macau casino would be on a waterfront site next to the hotel and entertainment complex planned by Steve Wynn's Wynn Resorts.

It is the latest venture into Macau by Las Vegas interests since Macau admitted foreign players into the gaming industry formerly monopolised by Mr Ho.

Las Vegas Sands, owner of the Venetian casino in Las Vegas, last month opened the Sands Macau.

Wynn Resorts this month began preparatory construction work for its casino-hotel tower in Macau's outer harbour, and the Galaxy gaming group plans to open its first casino in Macau on July 2. - 2004 June 22 SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST     

MGM Mirage to Build A Macau-Based Casino

LAS VEGAS -- MGM Mirage said it has reached agreement with Pansy Ho, daughter of casino magnate Stanley Ho, to develop, build and operate a hotel-casino resort in Macau.

MGM Mirage, a Las Vegas operator of hotels and casinos, has been trying to find a way into the Macau casino market for several years.

The company, which last week reached agreement to acquire Mandalay Resort Group of the U.S. for $4.8 billion, has extensive ties in the Far East and in particular, China. MGM Mirage received a surprise setback about two years ago when rivals Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Venetian, each won a casino license there while MGM Mirage was passed over. Mr. Adelson's casino opened several weeks ago.

The MGM resort will be located on a waterfront site next to the planned Wynn Resorts facility, an area destined to become the casino "strip" of Macau. The resort, which will use the MGM Grand name, will be jointly owned and operated by the two partners, and could open by late 2006.

Ms. Ho is managing director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based conglomerate operating four core businesses -- shipping, property, hospitality and investments.

The Macau market is expected to be particularly lucrative because of its proximity to the heavy gambling cultures in China and Hong Kong. The Macau government hopes to turn the region into a convention and vacation destination in addition to its longtime role as a gambling haven.

The agreement is subject to approval by the Macau government, among other things.  -   2004 June 22  Dow Jones Newswires  WALL STREET JOURNAL

Pansy in line to rule Ho empire

Casino tycoon Stanley Ho has named daughter Pansy Ho as the heir-apparent to inherit his empire, putting an end to the ongoing family feud.

A majority of the shareholders yesterday agreed that Pansy Ho should join the board of directors of Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM).

``I am pleased to join the board,'' said Pansy, who vowed to focus on the long-term development of STDM.

But she will not be directly involved in the group's casino operations, which will come under its new subsidary, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), also controlled by Stanley Ho.

The 80-year-old STDM chairman and major shareholder Cheng Yu-tung were both at the meeting.

Ho's sister Winnie Ho and another majority shareholder Henry Fok, who have traded angry words with Ho, were absent but voted against Pansy's admission to the board.

Fok sent a representative to the meeting while Winnie Ho expressed her opposition in a written statement.

``Please announce to all shareholders that I voted against the company's balance sheet, profit and loss account and the board meeting report of 2001,'' she wrote. ``And please record the above-mentioned opinion in the minutes.

``I am not attending this meeting because I was forcibly kept from attending a meeting February 4, 2002 under the accompaniment of a person whom I trust.

``After the occurence of that disappointing and upsetting incident, I felt my safety is under threat,'' she wrote.

Stanley Ho said his sister's vote was invalid because it was not legally binding.

He said she must vote in person or send a representative.

STDM posted a net profit of about HK$1.8 billion in 2001, an increment of 30 per cent from HK$1.4 billion in 2000. Stanley Ho had been considering who should to fill Winnie Ho's vacancy on the board of directors since she was kicked out after her son Michael Mak got into a dispute with the casino king over share distribution.

His fourth wife, Angela Leung, was reported to be a prime candidate for the post because Stanley Ho had once threatened to disinherit Pansy when she was rumoured to have plans marry close friend Gilbert Yeung, son of Emperor Group tycoon Albert Yeung.     -  2002 March 22   iMAIL   22 March 2002

Hong Kong's rich and famous have been giving the clothes off their backs to raise funds for charity

Inspired by Pansy Ho, managing director of Shun Tak Holdings and one of the SAR's leading lights in fund-raising, celebrities and business people have been clearing out their wardrobes and donating clothes to be sold in aid of the Hong Kong Cancer Foundation.

As an honorary consultant for the charity, Ho worked behind the scenes to get the project off the ground and also gave 40 items of her own for the sale.

Included in her donation were clothes she had never even worn and she said she had given away all of her more sexy outfits.

``I need to be in the mood to dress sexily, and as I don't often go to parties now I wear these clothes less,'' she said. ``At different periods of your lifetime you feel like doing different things.''

Among the many high-profile donors were singer Kelly Chen, singer and actress Miriam Yeung, singer/actor Andy Hui and singer William So, and in all more than 20 people contributed in excess of 1,500 items.

Some benefactors preferred to remain anonymous - one giving six boxes of clothes - while others made cash donations to the appeal.

One of the major donors and sponsors of the appeal was socialite Yvette Yung, a cousin of charity committee member Michelle Cheng.   - 2003 March 10 Hong Kong Standard      

It's Saturday night at the epicenter of the Hong Kong social whirl. A fashion show by celebrity couturier Barney Cheng is about to begin. Admission: Strictly by invitation. Minimum dress code: Diamonds. Outside, a concours d'elegance of Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, and BMWs unloads tai-tais, actresses and their consorts. Inside, models sashay down the catwalk to the strains of Mick Jagger belting out "Money - that's what I want." Show over, the paparazzi are banished, and the champagne party begins. Amid the bejeweled throng, a petite figure in pink top and flowered jeans sidesteps the departing photographers and seeks out a quiet spot.

In such a setting, Pansy Ho, daughter of Macau casino billionaire Stanley Ho, could be mistaken for just another air-headed heiress. Until, that is, she starts talking business. That's when it becomes clear Pansy has placed herself on standby to take over her 80-year-old father's vast corporate empire. It is known primarily for its monopoly on Macau's casinos, which have helped gain the quaint former Portuguese colony a reputation for high rollers, sleaze and gangland turf battles. But the monopoly on the $2.5 billion-a-year gamblingbusiness is due to end in less than three months - just two years after the colony was handed back to Chinesesovereignty. At 39, Pansy Ho, erstwhile party girl, has big plans. She is reinventing herself as a businesswoman with a mission. "I have to take the initiative," she says. "A lot of people are looking at me." Her next moves will decide the fate not only of one of Asia's most powerful business dynasties, but also the future of Macau, which Stanley Ho's operations dominate. The unlikely goal: to turn Sleaze City into an enclave for business conventions and for clean family fun.

Pansy has been taking the initiative for some time. She has fought fires in her father's Hong Kong-listed shipping, property and hotel conglomerate, Shun Tak Holdings, since joining the company in 1995. But her father remains executive chairman and Pansy, the fifth of Ho's 17 children by four "wives," is still perceived by many to be Daddy's Girl, a figure more suited to the gossip columns than the business pages. Before joining Shun Tak, her main business activity was running a high society events promotion company. And as a glamorous member of the Ho clan, she doubled as one of the star attractions. Her liaison with Hong Kong playboy Gilbert Yeung consumed reams of newsprint - fueled by a threat by her father that if she married Yeung, she would be disinherited.

The boyfriend is history. And far from being cast out, Pansy is placing herself on the front line of one of the toughest battles any business can face. When the 40-year gambling monopoly ends, three licenses will be awarded. And while few doubt Ho will get one of them, the old man could soon face ferocious competition from mighty U.S.-based conglomerates and local business rivals. Gangsters known as triads, who had been fighting a bloody turf war, have quietened down since the handover; they will be watching to see who gains control of the casinos. The ramifications for Ho, whose personal fortune has been guesstimated at $2 billion, and Macau, which obtains 61% of its revenue from Ho's gaming taxes, are so immense that locals refer to abolition of the monopoly as the Second Handover.

Ho, who runs his casino operations through a secretive, privately held corporation known as Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), says he relishes the challenge. But lucrative monopolies breed inefficiency. In the twilight of his career, Ho is under fire for presiding over a sleazy and unimaginatively run business. His 10 casinos, which operate 24 hours a day, exude anything but the glamour of the high rollers' rooms at Monte Carlo. The clientele: predominantly blue collar Hong Kongers and swaggering mainland cadres with bank rolls obtained from dubious sources. Outside Ho's flagship Hotel Lisboa casino, peroxide-haired Russian prostitutes vie for business with mainland rivals, urged on by their pimps. Triads have battled over the leasing of casino VIP rooms, massage parlors and other sectors of the vice trade that gaming has spawned. Can Ho's rookie daughter help him lift his game?

Pansy bets she can. In December, on the second anniversary of Macau's return to Chinese rule, a Pansy project, the $150-million, 338-meter-high Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center will officially open. It is the start of what she hopes will be Macau's rebirth as a venue for conventions and families as well as gamblers. If that transformation succeeds, Pansy predicts the number of visitors to Macau (a record 9.1 million last year) could increase by 50% in five years. "I have to admit Macau is sleazy," she says. "It must become family-friendly and conducive to corporate activity."

Pansy's ambition will take many of her father's business associates and 12,000 employees by surprise. The patriarch, who still ballroom dances and plays tennis despite a hip replacement, has never named a successor. Says Julie de Senna Fernandes, a trusted aide: "He never speaks of it and because of his age I have never felt it proper to ask. We always believed none of the children were interested in running the gaming side of the business. If Pansy says she's now prepared to take it on, you know something we don't." Pansy's sister, Daisy, 36, is deputy managing director of Shun Tak and a third sister, Maisy, is also on the board. Son Lawrence, 24, runs an online financial services company, and son-in-law Peter Kjaer runs online casino DrHo.com. Nephew Alan Ho runs the Hotel Lisboa and other properties. And Stanley's latest consort, ex-dancing teacher Angela Leung, 39, also wields influence. But Pansy, says Fernandes, "has [her father's] determination and strength." Agrees Pansy: "I am very much like my father."

The relationship between the self-made authoritarian patriarch and his independent-minded, Western-educated daughter has suffered more than the normal generational strains common to Asian family dynasties. This was most notable when Pansy ended her nine-year marriage to Hong Kong property scion Julian Hui and began dating Gilbert Yeung, whose father, Albert, is a business rival of Ho (they both own casinos in North Korea). Ho declared he would disown his daughter if she married him. "I was very upset and disappointed and hurt," Pansy says. But she understands what Ho was up to: "He was defending his own business." Asked whether she would define her relationship with her father as one of love or respect, Pansy replies: "It's respect. In the past, we could have a lot of fun. He was the one who spoiled us while my mother was the strict one. Now we are in the office, the relationship is a little bit different."

Stanley Ho is certainly not spoiling Pansy now. Asked by ASIAWEEK his opinion of his daughter, he gives only qualified praise: "I am confident in her abilities, but I believe there is always room for improvement. Should you ask me how many marks she deserves now, I say 80. She has to work harder and keep on improving herself to win the other 20 marks from me." As well as being hard to please, Ho is also notoriously hands-on. Ask Alan Ho, 54, how long he has been in charge of his uncle's Florinda hotels and he quips: "When you work for Dr Ho, there's no such thing as being the boss. His presence is felt in every part of his empire."

Yet Pansy insists she stands up to her father when she thinks he's wrong. "It's my duty," she says. "Whether it pleases him or not." In addition to her Macau initiatives, she has also taken the company into the new economy. At the height of the dotcom boom, she was receiving 10 proposals a week from banks urging her to back start-ups. Her response was cautious. Shun Tak invested in two travel-related businesses, forming a joint venture with Malaysia-based Asia TravelMart and taking 35% of mainland B-to-B portal Entmaster.com. Shun Tak also made a biotech punt - buying 15% of a U.S. firm developing a blood test for types of cancer. Total new economy investment: $10 million.

Technopreneur Alex Kong, who has had Pansy on his board since Shun Tak struck its deal with his Asia TravelMart, says he first imagined her to be a party girl. But, says Kong, "she is a shrewd businesswoman and a very focused one. She calls the shots." Pansy certainly has a different management style from her father: "I am from the American management school," she says. "I try and delegate and groom a team." To win employee confidence, she had to overcome initial skepticism: "I had to do more to show I have not landed in the role simply because I am the relative."

Should Pansy succeed her father, it would be another twist to the entwined fortunes of the Ho dynasty and Macau. Stanley Ho, who arrived there almost penniless in 1941, built his connections in part through marriage to Clementina Leitao, daughter of a rich businessman. In 1962, he wrested the casino license from the Fu family, which had held it for 30 years. Ho's STDM operations brought new wealth to the wrecked economy, following the decline of its firecracker and joss-stick industry. Today, the enclave (pop: 460,000) is a relatively prosperous company town. STDM and Shun Tak are key players in every sector of the economy, and they have provided much of the territory's infrastructure.

As Ho's businesses grew, so did his family. He took a second wife, Lucilla, who gave him five children - Pansy, Daisy, Maisy, Lawrence and Josie, now a 28-year-old actress. Pansy was sent to Castilleja, a high school in California, and Santa Clara University. Though she wanted to study liberal arts, Ho prevailed on her to take a business degree. When she returned to Hong Kong, however, he showed no interest in her joining the business. Daisy, a Toronto MBA, joined Shun Tak; Pansy did not.

That all changed in 1995. As Pansy tells it, she and Daisy became concerned that Shun Tak needed restructuring. The sisters decided Pansy's marketing skills were needed and she joined the company. Soon promoted to general manager, shipping, she faced her first big test. Shun Tak's Hong Kong-Macau fast-ferry service was facing competition from a rival operator and earnings had fallen sharply. Pansy's response was to negotiate a $200-million merger. The resulting joint venture, of which Shun Tak has 71%, now virtually monopolizes one of the world's most profitable routes. Soon after, Stanley Ho promoted his daughter to managing director. Again, Pansy faced a big challenge. Shun Tak was heavily exposed to Hong Kong's slumping property market. Pansy sold non-core assets and cut staff. She boosted profits by 8.6% to $35 million on a turnover of $422 million in 2000, slowing to 4% in the first half of 2001. Despite the fall, Dao Heng Securities believes the stock is undervalued.

Now Pansy is intent on reinventing Macau. Her plan is modeled on Las Vegas, which diversified into the convention and family markets. But can it fully compensate the Hos for the loss of their monopoly? Says Pansy: "We are still the market leader for shipping capacity, and we hold the best hotel portfolio. If there's going to be growth in the tourism industry after the monopoly ends, we stand to benefit."

Pansy says she hopes her father will continue to head the company for years to come and dismisses rumors of a power struggle. A source close to Ho says her once-frosty relationship with stepmother Angela, who is the same age, is now slightly warmer - "at least they talk." But what happens when Stanley leaves the scene? Says Pansy: "My father has put in place a lot of very good people, and we can all work together to pool our strengths." Talk that she isn't interested in managing the core gaming business is wrong, she adds. "It's still just a business . . . but I have a different vision." Come the Second Handover, the prosperity of the Ho empire and Macau may depend on it.

It's Saturday night at the epicenter of the Hong Kong social whirl. A fashion show by celebrity couturier Barney Cheng is about to begin. Admission: Strictly by invitation. Minimum dress code: Diamonds. Outside, a concours d'elegance of Rolls-Royces, Jaguars, and BMWs unloads tai-tais, actresses and their consorts. Inside, models sashay down the catwalk to the strains of Mick Jagger belting out "Money - that's what I want." Show over, the paparazzi are banished, and the champagne party begins. Amid the bejeweled throng, a petite figure in pink top and flowered jeans sidesteps the departing photographers and seeks out a quiet spot.

In such a setting, Pansy Ho, daughter of Macau casino billionaire Stanley Ho, could be mistaken for just another air-headed heiress. Until, that is, she starts talking business. That's when it becomes clear Pansy has placed herself on standby to take over her 80-year-old father's vast corporate empire. It is known primarily for its monopoly on Macau's casinos, which have helped gain the quaint former Portuguese colony a reputation for high rollers, sleaze and gangland turf battles. But the monopoly on the $2.5 billion-a-year gamblingbusiness is due to end in less than three months - just two years after the colony was handed back to Chinesesovereignty. At 39, Pansy Ho, erstwhile party girl, has big plans. She is reinventing herself as a businesswoman with a mission. "I have to take the initiative," she says. "A lot of people are looking at me." Her next moves will decide the fate not only of one of Asia's most powerful business dynasties, but also the future of Macau, which Stanley Ho's operations dominate. The unlikely goal: to turn Sleaze City into an enclave for business conventions and for clean family fun.

Pansy has been taking the initiative for some time. She has fought fires in her father's Hong Kong-listed shipping, property and hotel conglomerate, Shun Tak Holdings, since joining the company in 1995. But her father remains executive chairman and Pansy, the fifth of Ho's 17 children by four "wives," is still perceived by many to be Daddy's Girl, a figure more suited to the gossip columns than the business pages. Before joining Shun Tak, her main business activity was running a high society events promotion company. And as a glamorous member of the Ho clan, she doubled as one of the star attractions. Her liaison with Hong Kong playboy Gilbert Yeung consumed reams of newsprint - fueled by a threat by her father that if she married Yeung, she would be disinherited.

The boyfriend is history. And far from being cast out, Pansy is placing herself on the front line of one of the toughest battles any business can face. When the 40-year gambling monopoly ends, three licenses will be awarded. And while few doubt Ho will get one of them, the old man could soon face ferocious competition from mighty U.S.-based conglomerates and local business rivals. Gangsters known as triads, who had been fighting a bloody turf war, have quietened down since the handover; they will be watching to see who gains control of the casinos. The ramifications for Ho, whose personal fortune has been guesstimated at $2 billion, and Macau, which obtains 61% of its revenue from Ho's gaming taxes, are so immense that locals refer to abolition of the monopoly as the Second Handover.

Ho, who runs his casino operations through a secretive, privately held corporation known as Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), says he relishes the challenge. But lucrative monopolies breed inefficiency. In the twilight of his career, Ho is under fire for presiding over a sleazy and unimaginatively run business. His 10 casinos, which operate 24 hours a day, exude anything but the glamour of the high rollers' rooms at Monte Carlo. The clientele: predominantly blue collar Hong Kongers and swaggering mainland cadres with bank rolls obtained from dubious sources. Outside Ho's flagship Hotel Lisboa casino, peroxide-haired Russian prostitutes vie for business with mainland rivals, urged on by their pimps. Triads have battled over the leasing of casino VIP rooms, massage parlors and other sectors of the vice trade that gaming has spawned. Can Ho's rookie daughter help him lift his game?

Pansy bets she can. In December, on the second anniversary of Macau's return to Chinese rule, a Pansy project, the $150-million, 338-meter-high Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center will officially open. It is the start of what she hopes will be Macau's rebirth as a venue for conventions and families as well as gamblers. If that transformation succeeds, Pansy predicts the number of visitors to Macau (a record 9.1 million last year) could increase by 50% in five years. "I have to admit Macau is sleazy," she says. "It must become family-friendly and conducive to corporate activity."

Pansy's ambition will take many of her father's business associates and 12,000 employees by surprise. The patriarch, who still ballroom dances and plays tennis despite a hip replacement, has never named a successor. Says Julie de Senna Fernandes, a trusted aide: "He never speaks of it and because of his age I have never felt it proper to ask. We always believed none of the children were interested in running the gaming side of the business. If Pansy says she's now prepared to take it on, you know something we don't." Pansy's sister, Daisy, 36, is deputy managing director of Shun Tak and a third sister, Maisy, is also on the board. Son Lawrence, 24, runs an online financial services company, and son-in-law Peter Kjaer runs online casino DrHo.com. Nephew Alan Ho runs the Hotel Lisboa and other properties. And Stanley's latest consort, ex-dancing teacher Angela Leung, 39, also wields influence. But Pansy, says Fernandes, "has [her father's] determination and strength." Agrees Pansy: "I am very much like my father."

The relationship between the self-made authoritarian patriarch and his independent-minded, Western-educated daughter has suffered more than the normal generational strains common to Asian family dynasties. This was most notable when Pansy ended her nine-year marriage to Hong Kong property scion Julian Hui and began dating Gilbert Yeung, whose father, Albert, is a business rival of Ho (they both own casinos in North Korea). Ho declared he would disown his daughter if she married him. "I was very upset and disappointed and hurt," Pansy says. But she understands what Ho was up to: "He was defending his own business." Asked whether she would define her relationship with her father as one of love or respect, Pansy replies: "It's respect. In the past, we could have a lot of fun. He was the one who spoiled us while my mother was the strict one. Now we are in the office, the relationship is a little bit different."

Stanley Ho is certainly not spoiling Pansy now. Asked by ASIAWEEK his opinion of his daughter, he gives only qualified praise: "I am confident in her abilities, but I believe there is always room for improvement. Should you ask me how many marks she deserves now, I say 80. She has to work harder and keep on improving herself to win the other 20 marks from me." As well as being hard to please, Ho is also notoriously hands-on. Ask Alan Ho, 54, how long he has been in charge of his uncle's Florinda hotels and he quips: "When you work for Dr Ho, there's no such thing as being the boss. His presence is felt in every part of his empire."

Yet Pansy insists she stands up to her father when she thinks he's wrong. "It's my duty," she says. "Whether it pleases him or not." In addition to her Macau initiatives, she has also taken the company into the new economy. At the height of the dotcom boom, she was receiving 10 proposals a week from banks urging her to back start-ups. Her response was cautious. Shun Tak invested in two travel-related businesses, forming a joint venture with Malaysia-based Asia TravelMart and taking 35% of mainland B-to-B portal Entmaster.com. Shun Tak also made a biotech punt - buying 15% of a U.S. firm developing a blood test for types of cancer. Total new economy investment: $10 million.

Technopreneur Alex Kong, who has had Pansy on his board since Shun Tak struck its deal with his Asia TravelMart, says he first imagined her to be a party girl. But, says Kong, "she is a shrewd businesswoman and a very focused one. She calls the shots." Pansy certainly has a different management style from her father: "I am from the American management school," she says. "I try and delegate and groom a team." To win employee confidence, she had to overcome initial skepticism: "I had to do more to show I have not landed in the role simply because I am the relative."

Should Pansy succeed her father, it would be another twist to the entwined fortunes of the Ho dynasty and Macau. Stanley Ho, who arrived there almost penniless in 1941, built his connections in part through marriage to Clementina Leitao, daughter of a rich businessman. In 1962, he wrested the casino license from the Fu family, which had held it for 30 years. Ho's STDM operations brought new wealth to the wrecked economy, following the decline of its firecracker and joss-stick industry. Today, the enclave (pop: 460,000) is a relatively prosperous company town. STDM and Shun Tak are key players in every sector of the economy, and they have provided much of the territory's infrastructure.

As Ho's businesses grew, so did his family. He took a second wife, Lucilla, who gave him five children - Pansy, Daisy, Maisy, Lawrence and Josie, now a 28-year-old actress. Pansy was sent to Castilleja, a high school in California, and Santa Clara University. Though she wanted to study liberal arts, Ho prevailed on her to take a business degree. When she returned to Hong Kong, however, he showed no interest in her joining the business. Daisy, a Toronto MBA, joined Shun Tak; Pansy did not.

That all changed in 1995. As Pansy tells it, she and Daisy became concerned that Shun Tak needed restructuring. The sisters decided Pansy's marketing skills were needed and she joined the company. Soon promoted to general manager, shipping, she faced her first big test. Shun Tak's Hong Kong-Macau fast-ferry service was facing competition from a rival operator and earnings had fallen sharply. Pansy's response was to negotiate a $200-million merger. The resulting joint venture, of which Shun Tak has 71%, now virtually monopolizes one of the world's most profitable routes. Soon after, Stanley Ho promoted his daughter to managing director. Again, Pansy faced a big challenge. Shun Tak was heavily exposed to Hong Kong's slumping property market. Pansy sold non-core assets and cut staff. She boosted profits by 8.6% to $35 million on a turnover of $422 million in 2000, slowing to 4% in the first half of 2001. Despite the fall, Dao Heng Securities believes the stock is undervalued.

Now Pansy is intent on reinventing Macau. Her plan is modeled on Las Vegas, which diversified into the convention and family markets. But can it fully compensate the Hos for the loss of their monopoly? Says Pansy: "We are still the market leader for shipping capacity, and we hold the best hotel portfolio. If there's going to be growth in the tourism industry after the monopoly ends, we stand to benefit."

Pansy says she hopes her father will continue to head the company for years to come and dismisses rumors of a power struggle. A source close to Ho says her once-frosty relationship with stepmother Angela, who is the same age, is now slightly warmer - "at least they talk." But what happens when Stanley leaves the scene? Says Pansy: "My father has put in place a lot of very good people, and we can all work together to pool our strengths." Talk that she isn't interested in managing the core gaming business is wrong, she adds. "It's still just a business . . . but I have a different vision." Come the Second Handover, the prosperity of the Ho empire and Macau may depend on it.

Pansy says she hopes her father will continue to head the company for years to come and dismisses rumors of a power struggle. A source close to Ho says her once-frosty relationship with stepmother Angela, who is the same age, is now slightly warmer - "at least they talk." But what happens when Stanley leaves the scene? Says Pansy: "My father has put in place a lot of very good people, and we can all work together to pool our strengths." Talk that she isn't interested in managing the core gaming business is wrong, she adds. "It's still just a business . . . but I have a different vision." Come the Second Handover, the prosperity of the Ho empire and Macau may depend on it.  
- ASIAWEEK

 


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