Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2012, 12:00am

Joseph Lau Luen-hung has not been having the best of times recently: the owner of property investor and developer Chinese Estates Holdings is facing trial for bribery and money laundering in Macau, and could face more than a decade in jail. In happier times, Lau (below) was certainly never stingy with his cash: he was one of the first people to sign up to buy a Boeing 787 Dreamliner for private use when it was unveiled in 2007. The first Dreamliner customer, however, was Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways, which, in addition to its main services, operates a low-cost domestic airline in partnership with no-frills carrier AirAsia, owned by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes ...

A man of diverse interests, Fernandes is a keen musician who used to work in the music industry and the owner of the Caterham Formula One motor racing team. In 2009, he accepted a challenge from a fellow F1 team owner wherein the losing team's boss would spend a day working as cabin staff on the winner's airline - dressed in women's clothes. The loser of this challenge was someone whose record label, Virgin Records, Fernandes himself once worked for: Richard Branson ...

Although his Virgin Racing team had a somewhat unenviable F1 record, setting a record for 38 Grand Prix starts without scoring a point, Branson has done pretty well in his other ventures, becoming Britain's fourth richest individual on the back of everything from airlines to record labels to space tourism. And he's achieved all that without any help from on high, with Branson being one of the world's better-known self-declared atheists. It's a conviction he shares with pioneering modernist author and essayist Virginia Woolf ...

Like many of the giants of modernist writing, Woolf's lyrical, highly innovative work is perhaps more admired than actually read. Her experiments with stream-of-consciousness and interlocking soliloquies by different characters are often as impenetrable as they are impressive, but have had an influence on numerous subsequent literary figures, including one of the contemporary world's most formidable writing talents, Mario Vargas Llosa ...

For much of his career, which began in the 1950s, the Peruvian writer's novels focused on the society, politics and culture of his homeland, but in recent decades he has ventured further afield in his work. The War of the End of the World (1981) was set in Brazil, The Feast of the Goat (2000) in the Dominican Republic and The Way to Paradise (2003) mainly in France and Tahiti, with half of it based on the life of Paul Gauguin ...

Like many major artistic figures, including his friend Vincent van Gogh, the post-Impressionist master's work wasn't particularly popular during his lifetime. Since his death, in 1903, however, Gauguin's reputation has risen and risen - and with it, so have the prices paid for his work. In 2007, for instance, his 1892 painting Te Poipoi was sold at Sotheby's for more than HK$304 million - to Joseph Lau.


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