The esteemed Dr. Ambrose So is set to retire from SJM in just a week’s time, after some 21 years with the legacy gaming operator. Internal politics have long plagued SJM and its parent company STDM, begging the question of who will step in to fill the void that the venerated Vice-Chairman and CEO leaves.

In late April, the company announced the retirement of Dr. So, noting that ‘the Executive Committee’ – comprising Daisy Ho, Timothy Fok, Angela Leong and David Shum – would ‘continue to oversee […] the Group’s strategic objectives and business operations’.

Who could replace Dr. Ambrose So as CEO of SJM upon his retirement on June 15th?
Stanley Ho, founder and Chairman Emeritus of SJM

But how exactly is the board reshuffle going to take place after Dr. So’s departure?

Power struggles have been commonplace at SJM – in large part due to its founder, Dr. Stanley Ho, fathering 17 children by four different wives.

The children of Dr. Ho’s second wife, Lucina, have proven to be the powerhouse of Ho’s legacy – with Pansy Ho largely seen as the driving force behind the success of various multi-billion-dollar conglomerates (directly or indirectly) – namely MGM China, Shun Tak and SJM.

Chairperson of MGM China, Pansy holds no official role with SJM, but her share sell-down in MGM China in 2021 prompted speculation that she would be taking over the reins of SJM as it prepared for the gaming concession retender.

Pansy Ho, MGM China
Pansy Ho, Chairperson of MGM China

However, Pansy remained with MGM China, successfully leading the company in its bid, and ensuring that the Ho family – namely the children of Dr. Ho and Lucina – effectively control three of Macau’s six gaming concessions – Pansy with MGM China, Daisy with SJM and Lawrence with Melco.

But the hospitality, development and transport conglomerate Shun Tak is also not to be discounted – as anyone who has taken the ferry between the Outer Harbor terminal and Hong Kong is quick to note.

Shun Tak has many crossovers with SJM: Pansy is the Executive Chairman, her sisters Daisy – Chairman of SJM – and Maisy are also Executive Directors, a role David Shum (note above) also holds.


Dr. Stanley Ho’s death in 2020 rehashed a family struggle brought to the forefront in 2011, when SJM’s parent company STDM underwent a share restructuring contested then retracted by the late mogul. The subsequent feud left Lucina’s children with a significant stake in STDM, which they still hold today.

So who is the obvious successor to Dr. Ambrose So?

SJM Resorts, Visit Macau - Explore New Landmarks
Daisy Ho, Chairman of SJM (left) and Angela Leong, Co-Chairman of SJM (right)

One person likely to be denied the role is Angela Leong, Stanley Ho’s fourth wife and father of five of his children. While a Co-Chair of the company, industry insiders note that her role is more ceremonial – attending all the events, expressing the company’s patriotism, and pushing its interests in her role as a legislator.

Another person likely to be passed over is Maisy Ho, who holds no role with SJM. Despite her family relationship, Maisy has largely been unconnected to gaming and stays out of the public sphere.

Current co-chairman Timothy Fok, could be a possibility. Timothy’s father Henry Fok, Teddy Yip and Stanley Ho were partners in Macau’s gaming monopoly before it broke in 2001. However, Fok is 77 and has numerous other business interests in Hong Kong, as well as the running of the Henry Fok foundation, to take care of.

Two wildcards are still possibilities, but as one industry expert told AGB, anyone replacing Dr. Ambrose So would have to receive round-table support, and not allow a power balance tip in any certain direction. The aim is to preserve the current power dynamics, carefully negotiated after previous fall-outs and paid for in status and shares.
Therefore Executive Directors David Shum and Chan Un Chan (Stanley Ho’s third wife) are unlikely to have the necessary clout and political interest to fill Dr. So’s shoes.

Daisy Ho

Daisy Ho, SJM Holdings
Daisy Ho, Chairman of SJM

“Looking at all the various possibilities, limitations and combinations, there’s a high possibility of Daisy (Ho) stepping into the role as CEO, whilst retaining a position as Chairperson, when Ambrose So finally steps down,” says Ben Lee, Managing Partner of IGamiX.

Purely from a speculative standpoint, Daisy assuming the role could cause the least amount of tension.

While the Hong Kong Stock Exchange rules define that ‘the roles of chairman and chief executive should be separate and should not be performed by the same individual,’ it has been commonplace – one example is Daisy’s brother Lawrence – Chairman and CEO of Melco Resorts.

Daisy’s assumption of the CEO role would not shift the power structure within SJM, wouldn’t introduce any other variables into the decision-making framework, and also wouldn’t require any stock changes or, possibly, even compensation.

Other possible board changes?

But will Dr. So’s exit on June 15th from the CEO and Co-Chairman role result in further changes to the board?

Ben Lee opines that “within the board, I wouldn’t predict many other shifts. We may see some movement from Shun Tak across to SJM, but that’s unlikely because whoever goes on the board has to meet with the approvals from all the various stakeholders that are currently significantly quite influential within SJM and STDM.”

One possibility, notes the expert, is that Maisy Ho could join SJM’s board “if nothing else but to augment the [Ho family] hold on the board”.

Stabilizing factor

One thing that will be key to see is how SJM will fare without Dr. Ambrose So’s stabilizing presence. Industry experts note that Dr. So was key in keeping the peace, acquiescing with opposing factions and not taking any strong stance.

His retirement comes as no big surprise to anyone watching SJM, Dr. So is in his 70s and stayed on with the company largely to preserve “a perception of stability”, notes one expert. This was successful, as the company won its bid for a 10-year gaming concession, despite being the lowest-ranked proposal of the six winning operators.

While Dr. So’s departure is sure to cause some waves, one insider notes that the current financial position of SJM – and the lackluster performance of its Grand Lisboa Palace property – mean that individuals “can’t afford to start using the company as a platform for personal ambitions”.While Dr. So leaves all of his board roles on June 15th, he will remain a director of SJM Resorts, Limited, therefore still having an influence, albeit much smaller, on the direction of the company.