Melco Resorts made Lawrence Ho extraordinarily rich, but the Hong Kong-based gaming company that holds one of the six coveted casino concessions in China’s Macau is also responsible for the 46-year-old recently losing his “billionaire” tag.
Ho is the son of the late Stanley Ho, the so-called “King of Gambling” who held a monopoly on casino gambling in Macau for decades until the turn of the 21st century. Following in his father’s footsteps, Lawrence entered the Asian gaming industry soon after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1999.
After a brief stint in investment banking, Ho used his inherited wealth to assume a 26% stake in Melco International Development Limited in 2001. At the time, Melco International was predominantly a hospitality company. Once appointed managing director of Melco International because of his ownership position, Ho was responsible for transitioning the firm into gaming.
Ho partnered with Australian billionaire James Packer’s Crown Resorts to form Melco Crown Entertainment. The combined unit gained the last of Macau’s five newly created gaming licenses in 2006 by bidding $900 million for the concession.
After a fallout with Packer and Crown — predominantly because of Crown’s unlawful marketing of gambling in mainland China — Ho severed ties and split off into Melco Resorts. Melco bought out Packer and Crown to solely retain the Macau casino license, which today is used to operate three integrated resorts in the enclave: City of Dreams, Studio City, and Altira.
According to Melco Resorts’ latest financial filings, Lawrence Ho owns more than 812.7 million ordinary shares of the casino group. That’s approximately 55.8% of the entire outstanding shares.
The considerable position has greatly devalued Ho’s overall fortune since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. No casino market has been hit harder than Macau by the coronavirus.
Gross gaming revenue in the Chinese enclave plummeted from $36.5 billion in 2019 to just $7.5 billion in 2020 — an 80% drop. Last year was slightly better, as GGR for the six casino operators totaled $10.8 billion.
Melco shares, however, have continued to slide since the pandemic’s onset. That’s primarily because China and Macau adhere to the People’s Republic’s “zero COVID” policy that results in lockdowns in the immediate aftermath of new coronavirus detections.
Billionaire Only a Multimillionaire
As 2020 began, Melco Resorts shares were trading at $24.66. They closed last week at $5.02 — a staggering loss of nearly 80%.
As a result, Forbes gave Ho the boot from its billionaire list. Though Hong Kong remains home to 68 billionaires — the third-most in the entire world — Ho was among Hong Kong’s 12 names who dropped off the billionaire’s list.
The stalling tourism industry knocked casino billionaires Ina Chan and Lawrence Ho, as well as hotel magnate Zhao Tongtong, from the city’s super-rich ranks,” Forbes said.
In 2014, Ho’s fortune was north of $3 billion. Today, it’s less than $1 billion.
Ina Chan was one of Stanley Ho’s many wives. Lawrence Ho’s mother is Lucina Laam King Ying, his father’s second wife.
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