IAG FEBRUARY 2017 web - page 7

Cover Story
fter grabbing headlines with more VIP action than
VenetianMacao, Imperial Pacific International’s (IPI)
casino on remote Saipan is making less welcome
news lately. A former employee says the casino
facilitated money laundering. Ratings agencies
downgraded IPI’s creditworthiness as it tries to fill an estimated
quarter billion dollar funding gap for its US$600million Imperial
Pacific casinohotel. US authorities issued awarrant to investigate
the hotel construction site following a reported worker death and
protests over unpaidwages.
As China’s crackdown on overseas fund transfers threatens VIP
play globally, Saipan could become a focal point as a US territory
where the casino is run by a companywith ties to the newAmerican
presidentwhohas repeatedlydenouncedChinaandkeyplanks in the
Sino-American relationship.
Amid this tumult, or perhaps because of it, CEOMark Brown
says he is vacating the post at Imperial Pacific’s Best Sunshine
International unit in Saipan to become IPI’s Chairman. Mr Brown
told Inside Asian Gaming that IPI would confirm the change in a
Hong Kong stock market filing which hadn’t happened by time of
publication. A second source confirmed Mr Brown’s departure as
CEO tobecome IPI’s non-executive chairman.
MrBrown, formerPresidentandCEOofTrumpHotelsandCasino
Resorts in Atlantic City who has cited Donald Trump as a mentor,
joined Best Sunshine in November 2014 and took the company
from a US$7 billion investment plan that seemed pure fantasy to
a 365 room beachfront casino hotel under construction, exclusive
negotiations with the government on a multiple resort site and
“temporary casino”Best Sunshine Live, a realmoney training facility
formally launched inNovember 2015. Best SunshineLiveboastswith
48 tables – a third of them for VIPs – and 144machines, reporting
US$32.4 billion in VIP volume for 2016 under the first Macau style
rolling chipprogramonUS soil.
As part of “structuring the company to be more efficient,” Mr
Brown told theMarianasVarietynewspaper thatKwongYiu-ling, Best
Sunshine’s Chief OperatingOfficer sinceNovember 2015, will be its
newCEO. A 40 year industry veteran, Mr Kwong worked for Stanley
Ho’s SJM Holdings and its predecessor STDM for three decades,
then became COO at Melco Crown’s Altira Macau and later MGM
Macau’s ExecutiveVicePresident of casinooperations.
AMacau contemporary calls Mr Kwong an “old school” casino
executive, and another insider believes hisChinese language fluency
could increase the comfort level of Ji Xiaobo, IPI’s driving force, who
doesn’t speak English.
Saipan’s extraordinary rolling chip volume –which saw its 16 tables
surpass the roll at Venetian Macao’s 100-plus VIP tables for the
second and third quarters last year – stems from IPI’s links to
Macau’s junket business. Mr Ji, 38, the project’s “mastermind,”
according to an IPI lawyer, is a former Hengsheng Group figure;
“Amid this tumult, orperhaps
becauseof it,CEOMarkBrown
sayshe isvacating thepostat
International unit inSaipan to
become IPI’sChairman.”
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