Flamboyant Chinese Billionaire Sees Casino Dream Die

By on September 29, 2017 in ArticlesEntertainment

Stephen Hung is a flamboyant character with a penchant for wild fashion, technicolor hair, and diamond encrusted Rolls Royces. He's also a very wealthy real estate and gaming entrepreneur that had the good fortune of being born into a family that had already made their billions. Life has never really had any limits for Hung, which is why, up until recently, if you asked him what the secret of his success was, he would have told you there was no such thing as luck and instead said:

"If you're not willing to commit, then don't even think of starting."

Fair enough. I mean it's easier to begin a project when you've got a personal net worth of $400 million rather than $400, but his point is valid.

Hung might be singing a different song today, though. In 2012, Hung announced a $1.3 billion plan to build "the world's most luxurious casino resort" in Macau that would feature the world's most extravagant hotel suite where rooms will cost almost $130,000 a night and jewelry items in private boutiques will cost $1 million at minimum. Placing a bet on the gaming tables would require a minimum of $650.

VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

But the property, called The 13, is not yet open, nor does it have a gaming license. And it doesn't look like Lady Luck is trending in Hung's favor.

The 13 Holdings Limited, a public company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, warned that delays in building and lack of cash are crippling the project to a point of possibly canceling all plans and further activities related to The 13.

Basically, the company's liabilities are $38.4 million more than its assets. The venture would need an additional $121.847 million that it does not have in order to continue to develop and build The 13.

This is all a drastic reversal of fortune from the project announcement in 2012, when it was called Louis XIII and Hung trotted out an actual descendant of the King, Princess Tania de Bourbon Parme and made her an advisor on the project. Hung also spent $20 million on 30 custom built gold and diamond encrusted Rolls Royce Phantoms.

Back then, the new billionaires in China were 58-year-old Hung's target market. The country's economy was booming and new millionaires and billionaires were being minted every week. It seemed a good time to cash in on all the new found wealth. And then things changed.

In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping went to Macau to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the former Portuguese territory being returned to China. The president made it clear that the high flying spending of China's nouveau riche was under suspicion. The government was cracking down on corruption and the President was of the opinion that Macau needed to diversify its economy away from gaming. In other words, funding AND enthusiasm for Hung's project dried up. And while he might have been able to drum up investors, the simple fact was the Chinese jet set he was targeting just isn't traveling and spending like they were five years ago. They are more cautious. And caution and casinos do not make for good bedfellows.

Perhaps someone should have told the U.S. educated Hung about the superstition surrounding the number 13. Maybe he thinks differently about luck in light of the collapse of this dream.

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