HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong's highest-profile officials and business people paid their respects on Friday to Macau's gambling king, Stanley Ho, who built a business empire from scratch in the former Portuguese colony and became one of Asia's richest men.
Ho, who died at age 98 on May 26, presided over the transformation of once-sleepy Macau into the world's biggest casino centre, outpacing the United States' Las Vegas strip.
Shielded from challengers by a four-decade monopoly on gambling, Ho grew his operations into one of the world's most lucrative gaming businesses through his flagship firm SJM Holdings, valued at about $6 billion.
His privately held company Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, or STDM, has stakes in everything from luxury hotels to helicopters and horse racing.
At Ho's one-hour funeral ceremony, black suited guests, including many local tycoons, donned face masks.
Among Ho's pallbearers were Hong Kong's top leader, Carrie Lam, and senior members of China's top political consultative body (CPPCC), Edmund Ho and Tung Chee-hwa.
White flower wreaths from well wishers filled the funeral parlour, including condolences from Chinese president Xi Jinping, the South China Morning Post reported.
Ho's death comes as Macau faces a critical juncture, with officials warning that the special administrative region is too dependent on gambling and faces acute challenges as it reels from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Succession plans for Ho, who had four wives and 17 known children, had been in place since 2012, when he was forced to restructure his business after a legal battle within the family over his fortune.
His family remains a huge part of in Macau's gambling industry. His daughter Daisy is chairman of SJM, while his fourth wife, Angela Leong, is a co-chair. His daughter Pansy is co-chair of MGM Resorts Macau unit, while his son Lawrence runs Melco Resorts and Entertainment
(Reporting by Farah Master. Editing by Gerry Doyle)