Lawrence Ho Yau Lung is a prominent Hong Kong-based entrepreneur and philanthropist, best known for his significant contributions to the global gaming and hospitality industry. As the CEO and Chairman of Melco International, Ho has made a significant impact on the international entertainment scene.
Lawrence Ho was born into a life of privilege and influence on July 30, 1976, in Hong Kong. He is the only son of Stanley Ho, the influential tycoon known as the “King of Gambling” due to his monopoly over the Macau gambling industry. Despite his father’s success, Lawrence Ho was determined to make his mark independently.
In his early childhood, Lawrence Ho relocated to Canada where he pursued his education at Upper Canada College. Following this, he went on to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the renowned University of Toronto, completing his studies in 1999. Further highlighting his academic accomplishments, Ho received an honorary doctorate from Edinburgh Napier University, located in Scotland, in July of 2009.
He received a high-quality education, attending the University of Toronto in Canada, where he majored in Commerce. He graduated in 1999, armed with both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to follow in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps but also with a clear intent to forge his path.
After graduating from university, Lawrence Ho took his first steps in the business world, working in various investment and venture capital firms. This experience served as a solid foundation when he joined Melco International Development Limited in 2001, a company initially involved in the Macau gaming business and established by his father.
1999–2003: Emergence in Banking and Innovation in Mocha Clubs
In September 1999, Lawrence Ho embarked on his journey in investment banking, initially joining the Asia Derivatives Group at Jardine Fleming, followed by a tenure at Citibank. He became a significant shareholder of iAsia Technology in 2000, and by October of the same year, he took the reins of iAsia’s daily operations while holding the positions of President and Vice-Chairman.
In November 2001, after acquiring a 26 percent majority stake, Ho was appointed the Group Managing Director of Melco International Development Limited. Tasked with overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations, Ho directed the company’s focus towards leisure and entertainment. He spearheaded the revamp of Melco’s Jumbo restaurant brand and expanded the company’s interests into the finance and technology sectors, forging valuable connections with firms such as VC Brokerage and i-Asia.
The year 2002 marked a significant turning point for Melco when the Chinese territory of Macau began issuing new casino licenses, thereby ending Stanley Ho’s monopoly over the region’s casinos. Recognizing this golden opportunity for Melco to invest in Chinese gambling, Ho proposed a partnership on new gambling projects to his father. Subsequently, Melco bought a fifty-percent stake in a planned casino resort from Stanley Ho at a cost of $13 million. In the deal, Melco agreed to contribute to the development of the hotel and manage the electronic gaming machine lounge.
Melco’s innovative venture, Mocha Clubs, was launched in 2003. These establishments ushered in a new era for Macau’s entertainment scene by introducing “cafe-style slot-machine parlors” which were a novel concept in the region at that time.
2004–2011: Ascendancy as CEO of Melco International
In 2004, a strategic partnership was formed between Lawrence Ho’s Melco International and James Packer’s Australian casino company, Crown Limited. This partnership led to the creation of the joint venture Melco Crown Entertainment. In December of the same year, Ho was appointed CEO and executive director of this new entity, with both Ho and Packer serving as co-chairmen.
In a significant move, Melco Crown spent a hefty sum of US$900 million in March 2006 to acquire the last remaining gaming license in Macau from Wynn Resorts. This license granted Melco Crown the ability to “operate an unlimited number of casinos, tables, and machines in Macau until June 2022”. This major acquisition set the stage for the development of Melco Crown’s first casino.
Under Ho’s leadership, Melco International started turning a profit by 2006. On 15 March 2006, Ho was appointed Chairman and CEO of Melco International. The company took another big step when Melco Crown was listed on the NASDAQ in December 2006.
In July 2007, Melco Crown launched Altira Macau, a project that was built for a staggering $1.45 billion. Furthering their expansion, in 2009, Melco Crown unveiled the $2.4 billion casino resort City of Dreams Macau in Cotai.
Closing the chapter of this era on a high note, Melco Crown successfully listed its shares in Hong Kong at the end of 2011. This series of moves solidified Lawrence Ho’s position as a major player in the international casino and entertainment industry.
Ho expanded Melco’s reach through partnerships and acquisitions, most notably with Australia’s Crown Resorts in 2004 to form Melco Crown Entertainment (now Melco Resorts & Entertainment). This joint venture was responsible for several significant casino developments, including City of Dreams and Studio City in Macau and City of Dreams Manila in the Philippines.
As of 2023, Lawrence Ho’s estimated net worth is reported to be around $2.6 billion.
Throughout his career, Lawrence Ho has received numerous awards and accolades. Some of his most notable include: