HENRY FOK  霍英東  (1923 2006) is to offload his shares in a Macau gambling concern after a 40-year partnership with casino mogul Stanley Ho amid a war of words over profits.   Beijing-linked tycoon Fok says he will sell his 23,623 shares in Sociedad de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) by March 31, when its casino monopoly expires. He did not name the potential buyer or buyers, or say how much his shares would be worth. In an interview with the pro-Beijing daily Ta Kung Pao yesterday, he said the decision was a matter of ``personal preference'' and had nothing to do with the future direction of STDM . 

Ho recently won another casino licence by bidding under Sociedade de Jogos de Macau.

Fok said the proceeds from the sale of his stake would be used to set up a charity foundation to help Macau develop its cultural and leisure activities. 

He said he had never meant to take part in Macau's gambling business when he lent $400,000 to Ho in 1961. The understanding was that Ho would place ``a minimum bid'' at the last minute to save face but give way to local interests. He said Ho had asked for the money because he did not have enough cash to make up the $1 million required minimum bid, which he wanted to place because people were speculating he would not dare to do so one day before the deadline. But Ho ended up winning with a $3.16 million bid the next day. STDM was formed and began its casino monopoly in 1962. ``I became a director of STDM under the circumstances,'' Fok said. ``But I never really went into handling the [casino] business. What I did was build the ferry terminal and operated the passenger cruise services.'' 

Fok had complained about receiving just over $126 million of STDM's $1.4 billion profit last year despite owning 27 per cent of the shares. The tycoon, honorary chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, revealed in June in his book Macau Casino Saga that he received between $50 million and $200 million a year from his share in STDM, which he believed was less than what Ho allocated to himself. Ho, whom Fok called ``a close friend for decades'', replied that the company had to use the profit to fund its investment on the airport, Macau Tower and a cultural centre. 

Fok admitted he rarely visited Macau in the 40 years since STDM was set up because he had no interest in the casino business. He told Ta Kung Pao the charity foundation would be set up to continue his support for Macau SAR Chief Executive Edmund Ho's plan to develop the city's tourism industry. 

Fok, also a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference vice-chairman, has funded infrastructure projects and sports development on the mainland. His interests on the mainland have been growing, particularly since the Guangzhou municipal government started its 200 billion yuan (HK$188.6 billion) plan to develop the 319-square-kilometre greater Nansha area into a transport and industrial hub.   Fok initiated the plan in the early 1990s. 

The Macau government announced on February 8 it had awarded casino licences to Wynn Resorts (Macau) of Las Vegas, owned by gaming tycoon Steve Wynn; Galaxy Casino belonging to magnate Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Venetian complex in Las Vegas; and Ho's Sociedade de Jogos de Macau. Ho has promised to invest $4.7 billion in his new casino developments; Wynn at least $4 billion; and Galaxy Casino $8.8 billion. Ho plans to build a luxurious hotel near his Lisboa Hotel as well as an amusement park near Praia Grande Bay, and a Chinese and Latin cultural village in Macau's old quarter in the Inner Harbour. Wynn said he was trying to entice Lan Kwai Fong Group chairman Alan Zeman to invest in his Macau casino-hotels. Macau tycoon Wong Chi-seng would be a 10 per cent partner, and Marc Schorr, Wynn's partner of 20 years and president of the Mirage casino, would own 1 per cent of the new casino. Hong Kong property tycoon Lui Che-woo and Pedro Ho of Macau are reportedly partners in the Galaxy/Venetian complex project, which will include a 15,000 square metre casino hall and other entertainment venues.   - iMail.com     27 February 2002

Hong  Kong tycoon Henry Fok said yesterday he was pulling out of former casino monopoly Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM).

He will donate all proceeds from the sale of his shares in the company to charity and to infrastructure development projects in Macau and the mainland.

Fok, one of the major shareholders in STDM, said the money raised from the sale of his 27.7 per cent stake he owns would initially be placed in a trust fund.

Speaking at a press conference, he cited a loss of interest in the casino industry for his withdrawal from the company. ``I've already lost my enthusiasm for being engaged in the casino industry,'' he said. ``I think it will be a good time for me to withdraw from the STDM board at such a transitional period.''

The Macau government has opened up the industry and in February granted three casino licences to Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (a subsidiary of STDM), Wynn Resorts and Galaxy Casino.

Fok had previously expressed wishes to pull out of the gaming industry and in 1986 signed an agreement to sell his shares for $600 million.

``But as one of the major company shareholders opposed my withdrawal, I had to eventually stay with the company,'' he said, adding that when the company was formed in 1962 its original aim was to be a non-profit organisation to raise money for charities and infrastructure development in Macau.

But Fok said other major shareholders later had different ideas and that was another reason why he wanted out.

A source said it was believed Fok's shares would be valued at around $6 billion to $7 billion.

The trust fund will be placed under the supervision of the Macau government. Fok met Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho and STDM chairman Stanley Ho in Panyu on Saturday, to talk about his plans.

``Both the Chief Executive and Stanley Ho have not opposed my withdrawal,'' he said.

Fok said Ho had declared an interest in buying his shares. ``But he has yet to formally make me an offer. I think we'll need further discussions before agreeing on a price,'' Fok said, adding that that could take up to a month.    - by Michael Ng    iMail    2 April 2002


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