POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
HONG KONG » A law firm that says it represents ailing casino baron Stanley Ho is taking some of his wives and children to court, saying they improperly seized his stake in his Macau gambling empire.
The legal action is the latest twist in a family feud over who will control a multibillion dollar business that vies with Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts for dominance in the world's biggest gambling market.
Law firm Oldham Li and Nie released a statement through a public relations firm Thursday saying it has filed a writ of summons in Hong Kong's High Court.
It said that shares were improperly issued to benefit Ho's second and third wives and their families. Ho has 16 living children by four women he calls his wives. Lawyer Gordon Oldham said Ho had intended to divide his assets equally among his families.
The controversy erupted after casino operator Sociedade de Jogos de Macau Holdings, known as SJM, told the Hong Kong stock exchange on Monday that Ho had given nearly all his shares to five of his children and one of his wives.
Oldham said the billionaire disputed the share transfer and was vowing legal action while the family members released a flurry of statements and documents that they said proved he agreed to it.
The issue seemed to be resolved Wednesday when the 89-year-old read out a statement on local television saying that the "big issues have been settled." He also said he no longer needed the services of Oldham, who later released a statement saying he was still representing Ho following a meeting with him.
In another twist, a daughter by Ho's deceased first wife issued a statement late Wednesday also disputing the share transfer.
"I cannot believe that my father would leave my mother's family with nothing," Angela Ho said.
Oldham's firm said Thursday it is seeking to restrain Ho's third wife and three of Ho's daughters by his second wife from selling or disposing of the shares.
Ho had surgery in 2009 for unspecified reasons and spent seven months in hospital before being discharged in March. Local media reported that he underwent brain surgery after hitting his head. He has rarely appeared in public since.