Local media is reporting that Baha Mar suitor, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CFTE) has told them that Macau gambling king, Stanly Ho will have no part in their Bahamian operations if the conglomerate’s bid to acquire the stalled $3.5 billion resort is accepted.
The statement seems to have come about due to allegations by former Baha Mar director, Dionisio D’Aguilar disparaging the Hong Kong conglomerate’s reputation. On October 30, Mr. D’Aguilar directed a missive to Bahamas Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts, incorrectly asserting that CTFE had been denied casino licenses in New Jersey and Nevada due to a “well-documented connection to organised crime in Asia”.
The confusion seems to be due to the fact that the Cheng family, who control CTFE, is an investor in Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau (STDM), which owns the gaming subsidiary, SJM Holdings Ltd. STDM and SJM are controlled by Stanley Ho Hung Sun whose syndicate was granted a gambling monopoly in 1962 by the Portuguese Macao Government. Macau became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the Chinese government in late 1999 and Ho’s monopoly ended in 2001. Open bidding for 3 casino licenses (later to become 6 in aggregate) began the same year.
Among today’s macau casino operators are Sands China Limited, Wynn Resorts, MGM China Holdings Limited, Galaxy Entertainment Group, Melco Crown, and SJM.
The Macau we know today bears little resemblance to the hell-hole of old. By all reports, Macau was a rough and tumble place in the days of Ho’s fiefdom, with shootings in the streets over turf and gambling debts, and some evidence indicates that triads or Chinese organized crime families still operate in the darker shadows of the SAR today.
New Jersey regulators cited several US government agencies and a US Senate committee in 2009 in regard to potential triad influence when they investigated MGM who has a business relationship in Macau with Dr. Ho’s daughter, Pansie Ho. MGM and Ms. Ho deny ever having any affiliation with Chinese criminals and in 2010 MGM chose to place their shares in a trust and sell their stake in Atlantic City’s Borgata rather than sever ties with their Asian business partner.
The regulator’s concerns centered around the possibility of Macau VIP rooms being vulnerable to influence by triads through their junket operations. In 2014 regulators allowed MGM to reclaim its 50% stake in the property, which never found a buyer, and earlier this year MGM bought out Ballys for 100% ownership of the property, while still in business with Ms. Ho via MGM China Holdings Limited.
Our investigations have revealed no direct ties by CTFE or any of its principals or subsidiaries with organized crime.
It is still unclear when CTFE became interested or involved in negotiations for the acquisition of Baha Mar, nor have they stated their plans so far beyond an October 27 press release announcing that they were in negotiations and that they were, “already in discussions with hotel brands previously involved in the Baha Mar project, including Hyatt and SLS Hotels. CTFE also intends to re-engage its subsidiary, Rosewood Hotel Group, as a luxury hotel operator at Baha Mar.” Rosewood Hotels has been involved with Baha Mar since 2011.
In early October original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian informed China EXIM Bank that his company was prepared to make an offer superior to a yet to be disclosed offer being entertained and that he could open the resort sooner than any other entity.
About a week ago it was announced that Perfect Luck Holdings Limited, a “special purpose vehicle” of CEXIM had acquired the property.
On October 27, 2016, CTFE announced in a press release that they were in negotiations to purchase Baha Mar by acquiring Perfect Luck.