MB December Special Report | 20 + 20 = the most influential
Let’s be clear: if this list were made of 10 and not 20 places, Sheldon Adelson would be in it.
Better, if the list included the top 5 in Macau over these past 20 years, the Sands boss would definitely appear in it.
It is true that Sheldon Adelson did not invent gambling liberalization in Macau, but would COTAI even exist without it? Or, at least, would it exist, as it is today, without it?
The only reason why Mr. Adelson is not on this list is the vision he had, shortly after 2002, to turn an abandoned landfill into The Strip in Vegas (he even tried to use that designation exclusively in Macau). “I had been thinking about it. And it solidified in my head one night in a dream”, he said.
Sheldon Adelson has ‘fathered’ at least two other brands that made him a pioneer and made history: he opened the first Las Vegas-style casino (the Sands in 2004), when the competition was still thinking about what to do, and was not scared by the desert that COTAI was in 2007, building there one of the largest casinos in the world (highlighting that the MICE business like no other). “I was underestimated in Macau”, is another of his famous quotes.
It is therefore not difficult to acknowledge the pivotal role played by Mr. Adelson in these 20 years – he is to the MSAR that which Stanley Ho has been to the last 20 years of the Portuguese administration.
It is as if each of their public interventions – and there haven’t been that many – helped change Macau.
As if that wasn’t enough, his innovative spirit and boldness were rewarded by the market, which has given him revenue leadership for many years – a fact which has already obtained a feature in management manuals, where they show off Adelson’s accomplishment as he made $ 2.2 billion in one week thanks to its property in Macau.
For health and age reasons, Mr. Adelson. has now taken the distance from business.
But his role in Macau has earned him a legendary status.
As readers will imagine, compiling this list has caused some headaches.
If some names are too obvious, others are doubtful – that is, there are reasons to be but not to be.
So let’s start with the reasons for excluding Stanley Ho from this list: For the past 10 years Stanley Ho has been far removed from business and public life and formally no longer holds any place of responsibility. The latest information (last February) says that he is in good shape and resting in a private Hong Kong hospital, contrary reports suggesting the billionaire might be seriously ill (turned 98 last month). In 2011 he was still the 13th richest man in the neighboring region, but the next year he was no longer in the top 40.
But on the other hand, despite losing the 2002 Macau gambling exclusive, Stanley Ho remains the most emblematic figure in this same business.
SJM directly or indirectly controls half of the operating casinos in the territory.
We decided to include Stanley Ho for two reasons: on the one hand, for the leading role he played during the first decade (he has continued to be the ‘king of gambling’ and Macao’s most important businessman and this is how history will recognize him, among other things); on the other hand, the way he leaves his legacy: His family controls or has interests in three of the six concessions, which, for those who lost the exclusive of the casinos, is quite comfortable.
“We build tens of thousands of rooms, restaurants and attractions, but we say [to people], ‘You can’t play because there are no tables.’ Well, that’s one of the reasons they come to Macau. If you want to undermine and sabotage the viability of this industry, impose limits on the tables. I am very critical of this decision because I do not understand it at all.” The author of this strong statement is Steve Wynn.
In 2015, when the government announced the creation of gaming table limits on new resorts, the former Wynn Resorts boss criticized the local executive and considered it “unreasonable” for both the introduction by the Macau authorities of this cap and the fact operators only know how many tables they can create a few weeks before opening new casinos.
In a land where few dare to criticize the government, let alone entrepreneurs with strong and unsettled interests, statements like this are at least unusual. So unusual that they led to an immediate response from the government, through the Secretary of Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong, who called an urgent meeting with Wynn Macau representatives to demand “full” compliance with the government’s guidelines.
When he returned to the subject two months later, Steve Wynn tried to justify himself by saying, “it was not as serious as everyone believed.” Wynn considered it to be normal to “complain a little” and added: “I have a different point of view.”
This was not the only case where Steve Wynn justified bad results or anticipated problems in his Macao investments with government issues. He did the same, for example, in 2016, when he expressed frustration over Wynn Palace access. And all this justifies Steve Wynn’s presence on this list.
As is known, Wynn has disposed his entire stake in Wynn Resorts to Galaxy Entertainment, following claims he subjected women who worked for him to unwanted advances, and since 2018, he has gone down in history.
In the last elections to the Legislative Assembly, Sulu Sou became the youngest deputy (26 years) to be elected.
In his little over two years in office, Sulu has succeeded in removing Ng Kuok Cheong from the ‘leadership’ of the pro-democratic sector and has gained a surprising role.
Much contributed by the fact that in 2018 he was convicted of the crime of qualified disobedience, related to a demonstration organized by him as vice-president of the New Macau Association in May 2016, against the donation of one hundred million yuan from the Macau Foundation to the Chinese University of Jinan. Sulu Sou became the first local deputy to be sentenced.
In the Assembly his flags range from housing and public transport to trade union rights. In two years in office, among many topics he has addressed, he has also not forgotten the inclusion of homosexuality and contraception in the sex education curriculum.
But his big bet is the democratization of the political system.
Unlike others, he has not given up the potential for election by direct and universal suffrage and continues to criticize the way the Assembly works; especially the existence of deputies elected by an indirect system (“these deputies take advantage of an unfair political regime to exert ‘majority violence’,” he said).
Some more aggressive remarks have earned him criticism among other MPs, including the President of the Assembly, Ho Iat Seng, himself.
A significant portion of his colleagues and the establishment do not like to see the New Macau Association vice president express solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters or to state his condolences about the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The last event he was involved in was the popular electronic consultation held by the New Macau Association on the introduction of universal suffrage in the election of the Chief Executive, which was abruptly interrupted for alleged safety reasons.
Sulu Sou recently admitted that in these two years he has been afraid: “We are human, sometimes we are afraid,” was the expression. Still, the deputy left a promise: “We will do our best to keep our promises in the future.”