Walt Power, the former CEO of South Shore Holdings, has vowed to reverse the fortunes of historically-embattled Vietnamese integrated resort Ho Tram after being named Chief Executive Officer of Ho Tram Project.
Power takes over at Ho Tram after US private equity firm Warburg Pincus acquired a majority stake in the property’s parent company, Asian Coast Development Ltd (ACDL), last July. Local investment and asset management firm VinaCapital also acquired a stake, with the change in ownership ultimately seeing the departure of Michael Kelly after more than four years.
Speaking exclusively with Inside Asian Gaming about his plans for Ho Tram, Power said he is “extremely optimistic” about its prospects despite the property struggling to make an impact on the Southeast Asian IR scene since opening in 2013.
“Those that have followed the history of the property are well aware of its challenges, but with those challenges come opportunities,” said Power, whose previous roles also include SVP of Operations for Sands China subsidiary Venetian Macau Limited and Chief Operating Officer of original Studio City developer, New Cotai Entertainment.
“I’ve always felt that with the proper strategy, the proper team and an aggressive execution you can have success. I worked and lived in Macau for 17 years and I treasure my time there but it’s very difficult to move the needle in Macau now because of its size. It’s almost like an aircraft carrier – to move it only a few degrees left or right takes a big effort.
“I am confident we can move the needle here at Ho Tram. That’s why I’m excited and optimistic about what’s going on here.”
Power’s first task will be developing a high-quality team to execute his vision for The Grand Ho Tram Resort and Casino – a spectacular integrated resort located on Vietnam’s southeast coast around two hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh City and featuring 541 luxury hotel rooms, a Greg Norman-designed golf course, a sprawling pool deck and a second tower, with a further 559 rooms, nearing completion.
“My personal business philosophy is that in any elite organization, be it the Berlin Symphony Orchestra or the US Marine Corps, it’s about selecting the right team members and training them better than anyone else,” he said.
“That’s my philosophy going forward – surrounding myself here at Ho Tram with people who know their functional areas and the components of an IR better than I do, training them, supporting them and making sure as a team we’re executing aggressively.”
Ho Tram was originally a joint venture project between ACDL and MGM Resorts, but MGM pulled out of the deal before the property opened in 2013 following a series of development, funding and licensing delays.
Instead, Harbinger Capital Group – the hedge fund founded by US businessman Phil Falcone and until recently majority owner of ACDL – poured extra funds into the project under the assumption it would eventually be granted one of Vietnam’s first licenses allowing locals to gamble.
That has yet to eventuate, however Power told IAG he wasn’t letting the issue of locals gaming distract him from the task at hand.
“Quite frankly I’m not counting on locals being allowed to game here for this place to be successful,” he said. “There is a very large expat community in Ho Chi Minh City, a large community of foreigners who travel in and out for business purposes. There is an explosion in Vietnam in manufacturing, construction and tourism, and that has attracted a lot of foreign direct investment which brings with it visitors who like casinos.
“So our primary target is foreigners within the local market. Combined with foreign visitors transiting the area, I am very confident we will be successful.”