This week's episode of the Macanese gaming soap opera features two stories, one of an Asian billionaire feuding with his children over power, and the other of power making American billionaires act like children. If you want a break from made-for-TV drama, there's always Donald Trump. The bankrupt Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City was sold on Monday to the owners of the Golden Nugget for one-tenth of the 2008 asking price.
All Ho's Children
In his weekly Las Vegas Review Journal Column, Howard Stutz tells the tale of the "Hos and the Restless." The All My Children pun fits just as well for the sordid court drama between 89-year-old Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho, three of his four wives, and and his 17 children. There are more characters here than at a Duggar family reunion.
Ho is suing his daughters Daisy and Pansy for allegedly attempting to steal control of the family business, operating Macau's biggest casino conglomerate (and potentially a handful of other off-the-book activities). Recent attempts to legitimize the Ho operation to allow partnering with American-facing companies subject to gaming commission regulations means that Ho dares use the court system to challenge his children over the control of his triad-linked empire. Maybe it's actually the lost Asian episode of The Sopranos.
While Ho is in court with Daisy and Pansy, his three ex-wives and his other children are taking their own legal actions to secure their pieces of Ho's estimated $3 billion in assets before the magnate croaks. They claim he signed over his interests to his family members on January 25, 2011. Ho's lawyer began disagreeing on the 26th. The same day, from a wheelchair, Ho read a statement printed on cue cards calling for "family unity."
SJM, the casino operating company in which Ho owns a 31.7 percent stake, has declined 8 percent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since Jan. 26, costing it more than $1 billion in capital. The saga might be costing SJM mega bucks, but it's the gift that keeps on giving for the Hong Kong press. We'll keep you posted.
The Sands and the Restless
American billionaire Sheldon Adelson isn't about to be outdone in the drama department. Notoriously as litigious and egotistical as Mr. Ho, Adelson, Las Vegas Sands chairman and CEO, is fighting recently fired Sands China Ltd. CEO Steve Jacobs' allegations of wrongdoing. Adelson, who fired Jacobs in December 2010, responded by accusing Jacobs of stealing confidential documents, including investigation reports "regarding certain Macau government officials."
Jacobs alleges that he was fired unfairly because he refused to comply with Adelson's requests that he engage in illegal activity. While Adelson certainly does not claim that he got along with Jacobs, he says Jacobs was terminated for working on unauthorized deals. A series of e-mails made public as part of the suit make it appear that Jacobs and Las Vegas Sands President Michael Leven felt no deal would be authorized unless Adelson thought it was his own idea.
On May 11, 2010, Leven sent the following to Jacobs about convincing Adelson to OK a collaborative project between Sands China and Caesars Entertainment Corp.:
"If you want to get it, let Gary Loveman [Caesars' CEO] suggest it in one-on-one mtg with sag [Sheldon Gary Adelson]…That's how billionaires think, we are just executors. They are strategic genii in their own minds."
Adelson's attorneys argue that his issues with Jacobs can only be addressed through the Macanese court system and have asked that the lawsuit be dismissed. Last week, Jacobs' attorneys filed pages and pages of documents backing their claim that the Sands China business was conducted from Las Vegas and that Nevada is the appropriate venue for resolving the dispute. Hinting at potential bombshells, the Jacobs camp suggested that the Nevada Gaming Commission would be extremely interested in the illegal conduct that might come to light during a trial.
Read more e-mails and accusations in the Las Vegas Sun.
Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which declared bankruptcy last year, agreed on Monday to sell a property on the Atlantic City boardwalk for what some consider Monopoly money. Bondholders controlling the company will sell the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino to Landry's Inc. for $38 million, about a tenth of what Trump Entertainment hoped to get when it first listed the casino in 2008.
The deal should be finalized by the second quarter when Landry's will take control of the hotel and gaming floor. Landry's, former owner of the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas and current operator of a group of restaurant chains, was taken private last year. Landry's owner and CEO Tilman Fertitta told the press that he plans to renovate the Marina and reopen it as a Golden Nugget Resort.
Trump Entertainment still controls its two other Atlantic City properties, the Trump Taj Mahal Resort and Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino.
Get more information on the real-life Monopoly moment from Bloomberg.
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