Gambling, motor racing, princes and playboys: Macau has always summarised the mystery and glamour of the East. As an ‘open port’ in earlier times it was home to spies and bootleggers and ladies of the night, to high seas pirates and the navies that pursued them – who observed an uneasy truce while enjoying Macau’s fabled illicit pleasures.
Even into the 20th Century this tiny port city retained that air of mystery. After communism swept to power in mainland China, Macau was allowed to remain independent under Portuguese and British governance.
Its stunning casinos and hotels were – and are – a major drawcard to visitors from China even though it has now been handed back and given special economic zone protection.
Such a place attracted all manner of entrepreneurs and visionaries – men like Teddy Yip, an ethnic Chinese born in Medan, Indonesia. Yip studied in the Netherlands and took Dutch nationality. He spoke many languages including six Chinese dialects, Dutch, English, French, German and Bahasa Indonesia.
Returning to the east, he began to build up his business empire which included travel agencies, hotels, casinos and trading companies. In 1962 he and several partners, including his brother-in-law Stanley Ho, secured a monopoly to run all casino operations in Macau. They transformed Macau into a major tourism destination and Yip was the driving force behind the creation of the Macau Grand Prix.
Yip’s business consortium also built and ran the Hotel Lisboa, which stands to this day as one of the standout track features, a fast-but-tightening right hand turn that is often the scene of multi-car crashes.
Alongside his business interests, Yip’s Theodore Racing equipe ran cars for some of the biggest names in the sport and he also took an involvement in Formula One, backing the Ensign team and even briefly running his own Theodore F1 team with drivers including Patrick Tambay and Keke Rosberg.
Teddy Yip died in 2003 at the age of 96.