Businesswoman Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, the sister of gaming mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun, has died of illness at the age of 95.
A controversial figure, Ho was pushed into the public eye over money disputes with her estranged brother and a court case detailing a secret affair with her cousin, the late philanthropist Eric Hotung. She died in June, but news of her death surfaced only this week.
Her spokeswoman, Donna Yau, confirmed to the Post that she died at the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital on June 5 and would be buried in Chiu Yuen Cemetery on Mount Davis, near the westernmost edge of Hong Kong Island.
Ho’s grandfather was Ho Fook, the younger brother of influential colonial-era tycoon Robert Hotung. Born in Hong Kong, she later moved with her family to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam in the early 1940s to flee the war. It was there that she developed an interest in the gaming industry.
She came back to Hong Kong and since the late 1950s, worked in the family business for 15 years.
Ho moved again to the United States, not returning until 1977 when she would work for casino operator Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) in Macau. The company was co-founded by Stanley Ho and had been granted a monopoly in the gambling industry in Macau. It was not until 2000 that the city’s government proposed to split the sector among other operators.
Winnie Ho’s relationship with her brother turned ugly in the 2000s as they fought for control over STDM.
“I no longer regard her as a sister,” Stanley Ho was quoted as saying after a shareholders’ meeting in 2005 that ousted his sister from the board.
She sued the following year to retrieve HK$3 billion (US$382 million) in STDM dividends due to her. She had filed more than 30 lawsuits against her brother over money owed, defamation and share disputes.
“We don’t need all these lawyers if he plays by the rules and the law, and pays me back the money he owes me,” she said at the time. “But that’s just Stanley, always thinking he can walk over anybody.”
Having resettled in Hong Kong, she was unwilling to travel to the former Portuguese enclave to pursue legal proceedings against her brother following a number of alleged threats to her and her lawyers.
She claimed to have received threatening letters in 2004 and said her first solicitor in the case resigned after being attacked on two different occasions.
With the resolution of all the disputes between the siblings in 2008, STDM listed its casinos on the Hong Kong stock exchange and changed its name to Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, or SJM Holdings. Stanley Ho’s daughter, Daisy Ho, is now the chairwoman.
Stanley Ho, 96, has rarely been seen in public since he fell and hurt his head at home in 2009.
In 2011, Winnie Ho was pulled into a legal dispute when billionaire Eric Hotung, whom she was romantically involved with, sued her and their son Michael Hotung over HK$2 million. He claimed the money was given to them for an investment into Stanley Ho’s then fledgling gaming business in Macau in 1961.
The case revealed details of the relationship between Winnie Ho and Eric Hotung, which began in 1956. Michael was born out of wedlock.
The court heard that Eric Hotung had transferred HK$2 million to the businesswoman in 1961, but he denied it was a gift, as the sum was equivalent to two-thirds of his personal wealth at the time. The tycoon, who died in 2017, told the court a year before that at the height of their affair, he was more occupied with lovemaking than telling Winnie Ho about his intentions for the money.
Winnie Ho was unable to present her case in court. Her lawyer had said she was receiving treatment in hospital and could not be discharged.
Eric Hotung eventually failed to claim the sum.
Additional Reporting by Chris Lau and Kanis Leung