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2017 Inside Asian Gaming Power 50: Number Eight - Wilfred Wong

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 14:01
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8 Wilfred Wong

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
Sands China

POWER SCORE
1,964

LAST YEAR
10

CLAIMS TO FAME
• Sands China’s first Chinese President
• Experience in construction and property development
• Well-connected politically

For a company as distinctly American as Sands China, appointing a Chinese President was certainly a politically astute move. But Dr Wilfred Wong – the highly experienced and extremely well connected former construction and property executive – is much more than simply a warm gesture. In fact, it speaks volumes for the respect Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson has for Wong that he was handed the keys to Macau in the first place when appointed in 2015 – the first time the role had been filled by someone from outside the gaming industry.

Then again, he wasn’t a complete stranger. Hong Kong-based Hsin Chong Construction Group, whose board of directors he chaired, has had a hand in the construction of every LVS casino in Macau, according to Hsin Chong, and its Hsin Chong Engineering (Macau) unit was an important contractor on the Parisian, which opened just 10 months after Dr Wong joined Sands China.

Dr Wong has held positions in top management at Sands rival Lui Che Woo’s K Wah International Holding; in Henderson China Holdings, a privately owned, Hong Kong-based company engaged in property development and management in the PRC; in Shui On Group, whose holdings include property development, construction and construction materials in Hong Kong and on the mainland; and in Synergis Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of Hsin Chong specializing in property management and maintenance. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, an influential alignment of corporations advising governments in the region on ways to improve their business environments and reduce trade barriers.

He is also highly active in the Hong Kong arts scene, serving as Chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, Deputy Chairman of the Hong Kong Film Development Council and Chairman of the Asian Film Awards Academy.

As LVS Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson noted in a statement at the time of his appointment, “Wilfred has a unique combination of private and public-sector experience we think will be invaluable to the company at this point in our history.”

LVS and Sands China have suffered a few dings to their public image over the years. LVS has faced US government investigations (the Las Vegas operation was heavily fined at one point for significant lapses in its AML compliance) and has endured more than one highprofile lawsuit casting a shadow on its dealings in China. As it seeks a smooth path to the renewal of its Macau gaming concession in 2022 and government support for future developments it’s not going to hurt to have a mover and shaker of Dr Wong’s caliber advancing the cause with the powers that be locally and in Beijing.

And Dr Wong certainly isn’t afraid of a challenge. As he told the South China Morning Post recently, “If you look at my career, I have always liked challenges. From my career as a civil servant I moved into business. In the business sector, I tried different professions – developer, construction and all that.

“If you look at Sands China, it is a hotel, a meeting space, food and beverage, entertainment, family facilities – and of course there is gaming. There are many facets of this business, [many areas in which] I have previous experience. So, for me, it’s the challenge of a big enterprise.”

The Harvard graduate’s career in public service has been a distinguished one. He served as Hong Kong’s Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service and Deputy Director General of Industry. He was intimately involved in the restructuring of the territory as a Special Administrative Region of the PRC as a member of The Basic Law Consultative Committee, a member of the Preliminary Working Committee for the Hong Kong SAR Preparatory Committee and a member of the Preparatory Committee. And when the SAR was founded in 1997 he was one of its deputies to the National People’s Congress and held the seat for 15 years.

To return to the full list of 2017 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.

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