Boeing 787

Tycoon praises the merits of his palace in the air

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2007, 12:00am

Tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung has revealed his order for the US$153 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner is one of six private jets he has ordered for himself in the past three to four months.

The 55-year-old chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings has also put in a further four orders for friends.

The Dreamliner has 223 square metres of luxury cabin space is billed by Boeing as the perfect vehicle for the 'wealthy and successful entrepreneur' where business is conducted over long distances. The passenger version of the jet carries up to 300 people.

Mr Lau said he was attracted to the Dreamliner because it was made entirely of fibreglass, used 25 per cent less fuel than comparable aircraft and could fly 10,000 nautical miles without stopping.

'I have kept a good relationship with the airplane manufacturers, so they give me a very reasonable price,' he said. 'I think the merits of private planes are [that] they are more convenient, offer more privacy and better time control.'

But Mr Lau, whose personal fortune is an estimated US$2.1 billion at least, also mentioned a more personal reason for his conversion to exclusive travel. Once, in the first-class cabin of a commercial flight, he watched in horror as a fellow passenger stripped to his underwear. 'The passenger changed into his pyjamas in front of the others. I felt embarrassed, and I am a man, let alone how the women would have felt.'

Mr Lau also revealed yesterday that he is an avid collector of Chinese and western art. He paid an auction record US$17.4 million for an Andy Warhol portrait of Mao Zedong , he said, because it was meaningful to Chinese. 'I didn't think that it would break the record at that time,' he said.

He began buying Chinese ceramics and other art work about 28 years ago and western art 15 years ago.

'I not only like and collect Andy Warhol but also other contemporary art and impressionist paintings. It's just that not many people know, because I have not revealed it before.'

Western paintings often increased by 20 to 100 times their value, and Chinese art was beginning to follow a similar trend. Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang were two of the artists whose work often appeared in auctions not just in Hong Kong and China but in New York.

'The works with a Chinese theme have become more popular recently because, in the eyes of foreigners, Chinese paintings have rich ethnic colours which are fresh to them.'