Billionaire Stanley Ho filed a new lawsuit against some family members to regain control of his assets, extending a three-week public dispute over Asia’s biggest casino company.
A writ filed today in Hong Kong’s High Court by law firm Oldham, Li & Nie accuses Ho’s daughters Pansy Ho and Daisy Ho of seizing the tycoon’s holding in Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau SA. Today’s complaint follows a Jan. 26 lawsuit that was withdrawn after an oral agreement by them to return the stake, according to the new claim.
The 89-year-old who built his casino business with a four-decade monopoly in Macau is embroiled in a family feud over a stake that’s worth at least HK$11.2 billion ($1.44 billion) based on today’s prices of listed arm SJM Holdings Ltd. Videos shown by his lawyer Gordon Oldham on Jan. 31 showed the patriarch saying Pansy Ho and other family members took his holdings without his consent and that he’d been forced to make a televised statement saying the dispute was over.
“A lawsuit will be bad for the stock price and the company’s operations, in particular on decision-making,” Li Kwok Suen, fund manager at Phillip Capital Management (HK) Ltd., said before the announcement. “Investors do not like companies where they can’t figure out who is in charge.”
SJM fell 2.7 percent to HK$11.60 at the 4 p.m. close of trading in Hong Kong today. The stock has lost 16 percent since Jan. 24, when SJM said Ho’s holdings had been transferred to family members.
Both sides have “been unable to come to any resolution,” Oldham said at a press briefing in Hong Kong today.
The new writ again seeks an order declaring that the transfer of Ho’s interest in Lanceford Co., which holds a 31.7 percent of closely held STDM was made without his approval. STDM, with stakes in gambling, hotels and the former Portuguese colony’s airline, owns 56 percent of SJM, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Pansy and Daisy Ho “improperly and/or illegally” transferred 99.98 percent of Lanceford’s shares to a company they control along with their siblings and another controlled by Chan Un-chan, whom Ho refers to as his third wife, according to the writ.
The writ also includes a new allegation that Pansy and Daisy exerted “undue influence” when they transferred a 4.84 percent stake their father owned directly in STDM to Lanceford.
‘Reluctant to Talk’
Pansy and Daisy Ho have “proved to be the most reluctant to come to negotiations,” Oldham said today. “They don’t want to talk to their father. We hope to hear from them.”
Joseph Lo, an external spokesman for Lanceford at Brunswick Group, declined to comment in a phone interview.
Stanley Ho is also seeking injunctions to restrain the companies that hold the contested stake from selling the shares or voting on them, and for Pansy and Daisy Ho to be restrained from transferring or dealing with his holdings in any other companies, including Shun Tak Shipping Co. and Hanika Realty Co. Hanika owns at least 18.4 percent of ferry operator and property developer Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. and Shun Tak Shipping owns another 10.7 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
SJM runs most of the casinos in Macau, where gambling revenue is more than four times that of the Las Vegas Strip.
Ho built his fortune over five decades after Macau’s colonial government granted him and his partners a gambling monopoly in 1962. The monopoly wasn’t renewed after 2001 and Macau eventually allowed rivals, including Sheldon Adelson’Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts Ltd., founded by billionaire Steve Wynn.
Ho was ranked Hong Kong’s 13th-richest man, with a net worth of $3.1 billion, by Forbes magazine last month.
The case is Dr. Stanley Ho v. Ho Chiu King, Pansy et al, HCA268/2011 in the High Court of Hong Kong.