Macau tycoon coerced in family brawl, lawyer says

HONG KONG (AFP) – Macau tycoon Stanley Ho was coerced into a bizarre TV appearance declaring an end to a family feud over his vast fortune, Ho's lawyer said Thursday as the gripping saga goes to court.

AFP file - Macau tycoon Stanley Ho (C)

The latest twist involving Ho, who turned the former Portuguese colony of Macau into Asia's gambling capital, comes a day after he appeared to backtrack on previous claims that his relatives had "robbed" him of his flagship company.

Appearing on live television Wednesday, the wheelchair-bound tycoon read from a giant cue card and haltingly declared that the public spat had been "resolved", as he was surrounded by some of the relatives he accused of theft. "I love my family. Never have we sued each other", the visibly dazed tycoon said during the surprise television appearance on Hong Kong broadcaster TVB.

"The matter has been resolved," Ho added.

But lawyer Gordon Oldham insisted Thursday that Ho's relatives were behind the bizarre television performance.

"I asked him for an explanation about his earlier appearance on TV", Oldham told a rival Hong Kong broadcaster Cable News.

"He said that he felt very pressurised by his family to read out that statement. He wasn't at all happy in doing so", Oldham told Cable News.

Oldham could not be immediately reached by AFP for comment.

Within hours of appearing on TVB, Ho filed a lawsuit in Hong Kong against several of his family members, including daughters from his second wife and against his third wife, Ina Chan, who also appeared in the broadcast.

The application seeks to prevent them from completing a share transfer giving them control over Ho's SJM Holdings, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The colourful Ho -- who has had 17 children with four women -- refers to the mothers of all of his many offspring as his wives. But Oldham says that Ho was legally married only to the first, Clementina, who died in 2004, and that the rest were mistresses.

The South China Morning Post reported that Ho also married his second wife, Lucina Nam, before Hong Kong's polygamy laws changed in the early 1970s.

The feud shone a spotlight on apparent fissures in Ho's complicated family tree, with the share transfer suggesting the bulk of his $3.1 billion fortune would go to his second and third families.

The tycoon held a gambling monopoly on Macau casinos starting from the 1960s until 2002, when the territory granted licences to rival companies including some of the big Las Vegas players.

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