This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Hong Kong’s Richest 2019. See the full coverage here.
For a billionaire who runs one of the most successful casinos in the world’s biggest gaming center, Galaxy Entertainment Group’s Francis Lui keeps a low profile. Passengers on the ferry ride to Macau from Hong Kong may find themselves rubbing elbows with him, literally, in economy class. Make no mistake, though: 63-year-old Lui has emerged as a big winner in Macau, succeeding the legacy of legendary casino magnate Stanley Ho as the local face of gambling in the former Portuguese enclave.
The numbers tell the story. Galaxy is expected to earn HK$13 billion ($1.7 billion) in 2018, more than double what the Ho family-linked companies SJM Holdings, Melco Entertainment and MGM China are forecast to post—HK$6.2 billion in net profits combined, according to JPMorgan and Sanford Bernstein reports. Galaxy also challenges and sometimes bests former partner-turned-rival Sands China, controlled by U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for dominance in Macau. “We let our results speak for themselves,” says Lui, in a rare interview. Lui isn’t slowing down. He has launched a two-phase development that could double the footprint of his flagship Galaxy Macau in Cotai.
Galaxy has excelled by leading Macau’s transition from hunting for high-rolling whales to hauling in a far larger, more lucrative, wave of middle-class gamblers from mainland China. The shift is by design: Macau and Beijing authorities have long sought to diversify Macau’s economy and have decreed that the city should become a “world center” for tourism and leisure. They have encouraged casinos to supplement gambling with other attractions, such as shopping, restaurants and entertainment.