CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Melco International Development
CHAIRMAN AND CEO
Melco Resorts and Entertainment
Studio City International
POWER SCORE: 6,298
POSITION LAST YEAR: 3
CLAIMS TO FAME
• Management changes in the midst of a successful Macau rebound puts him in a more strategic role
• Refocused Melco’s Japan integrated resort drive on Yokohama
• Acquiring 19.99% of former partner Crown Resorts with an eye toward taking control
More than his Macau counterparts, perhaps more than anyone on this list, Melco’s Lawrence Ho is a gambler. That’s not to say that you’ll find him seated at a Melco baccarat table in Macau, Manila or Cyprus or that the 42-year-old Chairman and CEO of all three Melco listed companies makes rash decisions. But it does mean that Ho takes chances, not in the context of modern gaming where long-run outcomes are certain, but genuine risks where key factors are unknowable and results unpredictable. That’s gambling, and Ho makes serious bets.
He bet US$250 million on “The House of Dancing Water” and won. He bet US$1 billion on Morpheus, a 700-room boutique hotel for the 21st century, which started slow from its June 2018 opening but now leads the revival of Macau flagship integrated resort City of Dreams and solidifies its premium positioning. Not every bet pays off, but Melco consistently produces the most innovative IRs in Asia, if not worldwide. It doesn’t copy resorts in Vegas or across the bridge. Melco products are unique, and that’s a reflection of Ho and the corporate culture he’s crafted.
When Chief Operating Officer Ted Chan left in late 2016, Ho bet big on himself. He instituted a new management system that eliminated the COO position and put him at the center of operations. Those changes coincided with James Packer selling down Crown Resorts’ share of NASDAQ listed Melco Crown Entertainment, and, in May 2017, completely exiting what Ho lauds as “the most successful partnership in gaming history.”
Ho’s nearly three years of direct operations involvement have seen ups and downs in Macau, growth in Manila, Ho’s sale of his personal stake and resignation as Chairman of Vladivostok casino developer Summit Ascent, plus the start of operations in Cyprus. With the Macau business back on track, EBITDA up 34% in the second quarter, under a property president system, Ho has stepped back from operations.
September management changes put former investment banker Evan Winkler in charge of daily operations as Melco Resorts President, with City of Dreams Property President David Sisk as COO for Macau properties and Andy Choy moving from Altira Property President to COO for international projects. Presumably Ho will focus on strategy, where big questions loom.
Ho has put Japan front and center in Melco’s plans for the future, pledging to do “whatever it takes” for a license and move the company headquarters there if successful. Melco has refocused its attention from Osaka to Yokohama as its primary Japan target.
Meanwhile, Melco is in the midst of buying 19.99% of its erstwhile partner Crown. If Australian regulators approve, Ho has said Melco will seek a controlling stake. It’s a huge gamble on multiple fronts, betting that Melco can restore shine to a company battered by the jailing of employees in China for illegal gambling promotion and a stagnant domestic market, and that passing scrutiny with Australian regulators – as Melco did for the Melco-Crown partnership – will help in Japan. It’s the kind of high stakes wager that Ho seems to relish.
For the full list of 2019 Asian Gaming Power 50 winners, click here.