OPINION – The most valuable piece

In the days following the announcement of Stanley Ho’s death, thousands of pieces on the life of the founder of STDM were published.

It is fair to say that it was news all over the world and that Macau and Hong Kong highlighted it as it deserved.

I apologize to the best specialists, who have signed their most neat articles, but the most interesting piece was, nevertheless, not produced by a journalist. Although it was published in Macau newspapers.

I speak of the obituary signed by the whole family (women, children and grandchildren).

The piece is relevant for several factors:

First, because it clarifies, once and for all, the question of the status of the patriarch’s four women (three of them are alive).

It is true that Stanley Ho made it clear that “all the mothers of my children are my wives,” but it was not 100 per cent clear that only Clementina and Lucina were legally married and it was noticed that Ina and Angela are described as spouses in that document.

Then, because that obituary ends a rumour that came to life and deceived many people: Stanley did not have 17 children alive on the day of his death, but he had 16.

For reasons that are not clearly understood, in the last 10 years Angela Leong’s, ‘fifth son’, Ho Yau Kai, has emerged.

From Wikipedia to Bloomberg, from the Straits Times to Forbes, everyone spoke at least once about their 17 children.

The Financial Times itself, in the first biographical note it published after the death was known, wrote: “Ho had at least 17 children by four wives over the years” (a formulation admittedly without rigour, but defensive on the part of the newspaper).

(It is already less understandable that the family has not made any effort to correct, at least the main newspapers; after all, one more child is no small matter…)

The third note that the obituary deserves is precisely the fact that, for the first time, everyone appeared together.

Is it normal for this to be so? Yes, but Stanley Ho’s family is (was?) not a normal family.

Just 10 days before her father’s death, Deborah Ho, a daughter of deceased first wife Clementina Leitao, triggered a legal action in the Hong Kong High Court, asking her elder sister, Angela Ho Chiu-yin, who is the trustee of The Clementina Ho Trust and The Stanley and Clementina Family Trusts, to provide her with deeds and documents related to changes to the trusts’ arrangement.

P.S. – Last February, at Macau Business magazine, we marked the 50th anniversary of Hotel Lisboa and one of the texts in the special report was about the future of the family. For at least three days I did my best to find out if there were 16 or 17 children alive. I was unable to do so and chose to follow sources that seemed credible to me. I screwed up too. I apologise to the readers and the family of course.