The New Generation
Leisure & Entertainment Titan
At the age of thirty-one, Lawrence Ho is the chairman and chief executive officer of Melco Group (“Melco”), which has six listed entities, three in Hong Kong, two in the U.S. and one newly listed in Canada. With vision and vigor unparalleled by others at his age, Ho has been described as “the new face of Macau” by the International Herald Tribune; recognized by Asiamoney as “one of the 100 most influential people across Asia-Pacific”; and is widely considered as one of the most innovative entrepreneurs in Greater China.
Yet all these have not come easy. Back seven years ago when Melco was taken over by Lawrence Ho, it was a distressed asset with interests only in Jumbo Floating Restaurant. With hard work, determination and the ability to visualize the tremendous opportunities brought by the liberalization of Macau’s gaming market in 2002, Ho turned around Melco in less than four years’ time and strategically positioned the Group as a new generation Asian conglomerate focused on leisure and entertainment.
Empire in the Making
Back in 2002, when the number of gaming licenses in Macau grew from one to six, Ho had a vision of how the city was going to transform itself. He played a leading role as a pioneer of the “new Macau” and brought new elements to the local gaming scene. Envisioning the dynamic future of Macau, Ho started the blueprints of developing truly luxurious casino hotels in Macau and at the same time, introduced Mocha Clubs to the local gaming market in 2003. Mixing electronic slot machines with a café-style atmosphere, Mocha Clubs was an instant success. Today, Mocha Clubs comprise the largest non-casino-based operation of electronic gaming machines in Macau with approximately 1,100 machines in seven outlets.
Setting his footprint in the gaming market of Macau, Ho initiated the formation of an exclusive Asian joint venture with Australian entertainment firm Crown Limited in 2004. The company, known as Melco Crown Entertainment Limited, through a wholly owned subsidiary holds one of the only six gaming licenses to own and operate casinos in Macau. Melco Crown Entertainment went public (under the ticker symbol MPEL) in December 2006, raising more than US$1.3 billion. According to Renaissance Capital and IPOhome.com, it ranked as the fourth-largest IPO in the U.S. that year and the largest NASDAQ IPO for an Asian company in history.
While many others in Macau are building casinos with an integrated approach, Ho has his eyes set on a specific market segment – the growing VIP market in the region, specifically the rising middle class in China, which has contributed significantly to the recent growth in gaming revenue in Macau.
“The economic development in China is creating a new class of consumers demanding leisure and entertainment. While infrastructure development, both in terms of regional transportation networks and gaming properties, is proceeding at pace, Macau is well-positioned to attract and absorb some of this newfound wealth,” notes Ho.
Crown Macau, which debuted in May 2007, spearheaded Ho’s aspiration to provide a 6-star luxury experience to VIP customers. No doubt the world-class contemporary hotel casino soon became a favorite among global high-end gaming patrons. Its contemporary and sophisticated design is in stark contrast to the traditional interpretation of hotel casino design in both Macau and Las Vegas, as Crown Macau won the Best Interior Design Award at the International Gaming Awards in London in January 2008 and was recently selected as one of the 12 “Best Hotel Swimming Pools 2008” by ForbesTravelers.com.
Leveraging MPEL’s local knowledge and relationships, Crown Macau entered into an exclusive agreement with junket aggregator AMA International last December. The partnership was an immediate success and Crown Macau has since become the single highest-grossing casino in the world in terms of gaming turnover.
Meanwhile, the integrated urban entertainment resort, City of Dreams, is about to usher in a new era of entertainment in the first half of 2009. Targeting the emerging multi-night-stay market, the majestically contemporary yet chic resort will offer a kaleidoscope of never-been-seen-before attractions within a unique curvilinear podium supporting several distinct towers – Crown Towers, Hard Rock Hotel, Grand Hyatt’s twin towers and an apartment hotel. “We have City of Dreams designed to become an experience factory,” says Ho. “We have gathered together some of the most creative minds in the world to create a destination that is in tune with the new generation of the twenty first century.”
There are certainly more upcoming ventures to keep the ball rolling. Under wraps are plans to develop a third casino hotel property near the Macau ferry terminal, and another casino on Cotai called Macau Studio City that is under development by a third party and to be operated under MPEL’s license.
With a strong belief in Asia as the fastest- growing region for the leisure and entertainment sector, Ho is rapidly extending his winning concept to other project developments in China and beyond. Melco China Resorts, which is newly listed in Canada and owns the largest ski resort portfolios in China, is tapping into China’s increasing wealth and leisure expenditure with the acquisition of five existing ski resorts. Working with global experts, Ho aims to create a world-class, year-round resort experience on a par with North American and European resorts.
While striving ahead as a young entrepreneur on the global business stage, Ho also endeavors to build a better future for the world. “Melco is committed to honoring its responsibility as a responsible corporation; with a vision to contribute to the growth and future of the communities we serve, and to inspire hope and happiness in people around the world,” enthuses Ho.
To ensure effective planning and implementation of its CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs and community projects, Melco has formed a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee to focus its efforts on education, youth development and environment – the three charity pillars that pertain to Melco’s concern for the sustainable growth and well-being of a new generation in Asia. Melco is among the few business corporations to compile CSR reports to define the goals and long-term commitment to sustainable development.
Over the years, Melco offered sponsorship for over 50 meaningful projects organized by various charitable organizations and professional bodies. More than 10,000 children and families benefited from the projects. These encompassed fundraising projects that helped children with learning or physical difficulties to rebuild self-confidence and integrate into the community; sponsoring and volunteering for community projects and education programs that dedicated to the enhancement of children’s education; as well as sponsoring and supporting different environmental protection projects and events.
Melco also responds promptly to emergency appeals. Immediately after the devastating earthquake that struck Sichuan Province in May, Ho donated, personally and with Melco and Melco Crown Entertainment, HK$10 million to support relief efforts in the province. Directors and staff members of the group together raised another HK$1.5 million within a week and made the donation to Hong Kong Red Cross and the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF in support of earthquake victims.
Melco’s passion and devotion in Corporate Social Responsibility has not gone unnoticed. The company has been named a “Caring Company” since 2005 by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and has been a Double Diamond corporate member of WWF Hong Kong since 2007. The Group was also given the President Award by the Community Chest in recognition of its consistent support for the community.
Spirited and visionary, Lawrence Ho is not only dedicated to making the next best move for his business empire. He is also committed to achieving the best for the community.