The battle for the fortune of tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun has taken another dramatic turn with the filing of a court claim against five of his children, two of his four wives and a long-serving lieutenant to recover his assets.
The legal action came only hours after a bizarre TV appearance in which Ho appeared to suggest the spat had been resolved "without going to court."
The suit, filed in the High Court, seeks an injunction to stop his relatives from claiming ownership of SJM Holdings, the centerpiece of Ho's massive fortune.
The claim, with accompanying endorsement of claim signed by Ho, also seeks unspecified damages against four of the 11 defendants, including three of his children - two of whom, Pansy and Lawrence Ho, run rival gambling concessions in Macau.
It alleges the group "improperly and/ or illegally" moved to change the share structure at a holding company that ultimately controls Ho's flagship firm, whose interests include 17 Macau casinos and several hotels.
The effect of the issuing of 9,998 new shares reduced the tycoon's ownership of Lanceford Company to less than 1 percent.
The 89-year-old billionaire is also seeking to restrain the defendants from selling or disposing of the shares, according to the writ.
Among the 11 defendants are Lucina Laam King-ying - whom the tycoon calls his second wife - and her children Daisy, Pansy, Maisy, Josie and Lawrence; his third wife Ina Chan Un- chan; and his long-serving lieutenant Patrick Huen Wing-ming.
The new beneficiaries following the transfer of shares - Action Winner Holdings Limited and Ranillo Investments Limited, which the defendants own - are also named in the writ.
Lawyer Gordon Oldham, who appeared outside court yesterday morning, insisted he still represents the Macau gambling magnate, a day after Ho announced on television that he "no longer needs the services" of the lawyer.
Oldham said Ho had been coerced into reconciling with family members on live television on Wednesday, with the wheelchair-bound Ho struggling to read a giant cue card.
"I asked him for an explanation about his earlier appearance on TV," Oldham said.
"He said that he felt very pressurized by his family to read out that statement. He wasn't at all happy in doing so."
Ho had intended to divide his assets equally among his families, but the actions of the directors of Lanceford effectively eliminated this possibility, according to a statement issued by the lawyer.
"It is still our hope that the family can resolve this matter and that Mr Ho's assets can be distributed according to his wishes," it said.
The feud over the casino empire involves various factions of Ho's family, which includes four wives and at least 17 known children. Oldham said he will bring another video of Stanley Ho to the court.