Quarry miner turned Galaxy casino boss doubles down on Macau

Tue Jun 18, 2013 7:36am EDT
 
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By Farah Master

MACAU (Reuters) - Francis Lui's rise to the top job at one of Macau's biggest casino operators was far from glamorous. At 23, the son of Hong Kong construction tycoon Lui Che Woo was forced to don a hard hat and boots and sent to work in a quarry for three years before he was allowed to sit behind a desk.

"People think you come from a wealthy family, you probably had a chauffeur driving you to work and you put on a tie and jacket. No!" laughed Lui, now the 57-year-old head of casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.

Lui, who formally took over last year from his father, has helped build Galaxy into Macau's No. 2 casino operator by stock market value. He has drawn on both his China and overseas experience to expand in the booming Chinese gambling hub and compete with rivals like Wynn Macau Ltd and MGM China Holdings Ltd.

A graduate from the University of California at Berkeley with an engineering degree, Lui is among a new generation of Asian corporate leaders with international savvy taking the reins at family-owned businesses. His peers include Lawrence Ho, head of rival Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd, and retail heir Adrian Cheng.

Galaxy, which had a background in construction and engineering but no gaming experience, entered the former Portuguese colony through a joint venture with U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson in 2002 - a time when Macau was better known for violent gangs than luxury casino resorts.

Months after winning a concession in Macau, the only place in China where the country's 1.3 billion people are allowed to gamble in casinos, the two companies parted ways citing differing management styles. Las Vegas Sands Corp, through its Macau unit Sands China Ltd, went on to build four properties, while Galaxy started operating small city clubs before developing two large-scale casino resorts.

Galaxy, Macau's only homegrown player besides Stanley Ho's SJM Holdings Ltd, had been doing business in mainland China for 20 years before entering the territory. Lui said this experience helped it to see early on Macau's potential as a place to capitalize on the growing ranks of wealthy Chinese.

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Francis Lui, Deputy Chairman of the Galaxy Entertainment Group, poses outside Galaxy Macau in Macau June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Yeung