Lawrence Ho, James Packer’s casino part­ner in Ma­cau.


The Australian - The Deal - - Contents -

awrence Ho is the first to ad­mit his re­la­tion­ship with James Packer has been any­thing but per­fect. “The nine-year part­ner­ship is sim­i­lar to a mar­riage,” he tells “So it hasn’t been con­stant blue skies be­cause we did have some tough times, es­pe­cially dur­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.”

The part­ners’ first casino-ho­tel pro­ject, CrownMa­cau (now known asAltira), started poorly. Then their flag­ship $2 bil­lionCity of Dreams casino re­sort de­vel­op­ment had its own tough initiation, open­ing just as the GFC was tak­ing hold. In the early months, crit­ics de­scribed it as a ghost town with the wrong prod­uct in the wrong spot.

There was spec­u­la­tion at that time of a fall­ing out be­tween the gam­ing scions, as Crown was forced to step in to help its part­ner. But, Ho says, the depth of his friend­ship with Packer got them through. “When we were go­ing through the hard times, we re­ally did it to­gether. We didn’t try to do bad stuff to­wards one an­other. We had full trust and loy­alty and faith in one an­other.”

Packer de­scribes the GFC­ex­pe­ri­ence as “ter­ri­fy­ing”. And, like Ho, he ac­knowl­edges that each could have taken ad­van­tage of the other’s po­si­tion of weak­ness. “There were times when I had more lever­age and I could have bought­more shares and done what­ever,” Packer says. “And there were prob­a­bly times when he could have­mademy life more dif­fi­cult. But we have both be­haved per­fectly.”

Now with its fo­cus on the pre­mium mass mar­ket, rather than on ex­tremely lu­cra­tive VIP rooms, City of Dreams is a re­sound­ing suc­cess and has be­come one of the fo­cal points within theCo­tai Strip. Next on the agenda is a new tower at City of Dreams, which Ho con­firm­swill cost in the “ball­park” of $US1 bil­lion. Af­ter that will be the $US2 bil­lion Stu­dio City pro­ject, sched­uled to open in mid-2015. The group also has am­bi­tions in Ja­pan, The Philip­pines and Tai­wan.

Packer says the two sons of fa­mous fa­thers don’t talk as of­ten as they once did, but he be­lieves that says a great deal about his con­fi­dence in the busi­ness, of whichHo is the chief ex­ec­u­tive. “There are six board meet­ings a year. I get daily re­ports fromthe busi­ness, so I knowhow­much­money is won and lost ev­ery day, and then weekly re­ports. Lawrence and I talk once or twice be­tween board meet­ings.”

While those chats arepri­mar­ily about the busi­ness thesedays, it wasn’t al­ways that­way. Inthe early years of their part­ner­ship, they used to talk can­didly about their bil­lion­aire fa­thers and their con­trast­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of forg­ing a path in the busi­ness world.

“I have learnt a lot from James,” says Ho, who is the son of casino mag­nate Stan­leyHo and his sec­ond­wife. Ho se­nior, nowwith his fourth wife, has 17 chil­dren. “When [James] was grow­ing up, his fa­ther was fa­mous for be­ing very in­volved and hard on him. Most peo­ple don’t know this, but my fa­ther wasn’t re­ally in­volved and he didn’t care what I did at all. It was very dif­fer­ent. James­met my fa­ther a few­times in the early days and I had the hon­our of meet­ing Kerry a few times in the early days, be­fore his pass­ing.’’

Ho says he has no re­sent­ment to­wards his now-frail nona­ge­nar­ian

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