Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2010, 12:00am


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Peace and quiet a rare luxury for the rich and famous

Ever heard of this quirky Hong Kong saying: 'Smart people don't want to become famous and pigs don't want to get too fat'?

Consider what we can learn from retired jeweller S.J. Lau - and appreciate that there are good reasons why people choose to lie low.

Lau caught media attention in September after purchasing an 816-square-foot, one-bedroom flat at The Masterpiece in Tsim Sha Tsui for a whopping HK$24.5 million, which set a record for the most expensive single-bedroom apartment in Asia.

Ever since the sale, reporters have been knocking on Lau's door, trying to get a first glimpse of this mystery tycoon. Now we all know that Lau lives in a HK$3 million flat in an old tenement in Jordan, and he frequently travels to the mainland.

Over the past months, Lau has turned down numerous media requests to interview him by saying all he wants is to 'spend his retirement days in peace and quiet'.

Sorry, too late now!

No dice for non-gamblers

Lai See reported this week that the recently opened Resorts World Sentosa has been drawing visitors (149,000 already) from all over Asia, especially from mainland China. We found out that in order to promote responsible and (maybe) respectable gambling, Singapore's police will serve exclusion orders, banning people with criminal records and those on public assistance from entering casinos.

To save police time, many Singaporeans have already taken the initiative to bar themselves from it.

The Singapore newspaper Today reported that 264 people had applied to the National Council on Problem Gambling to be excluded. We have learned that there are further safeguards at the casino for those who might just have a last-minute change of mind. Gamblers can seek on-site counselling or apply for voluntary gaming limit services to put a cap on their bets.

Hmm, sounds a bit weird to ask someone to tell you to control yourself.

Hitting the brakes again

Lai See hears with dismay that South Korea's Hyundai Motor has stopped US sales of its 2011 Sonata sedan because of lock 'issues'. We can just imagine a Hyundai executive commiserating over a beer with his opposite number at Toyota, which is struggling with its own recall.

'This will put a brake on sales,' says the Hyundai rep.

'At least you've got brakes,' says the Toyota salesperson sadly.

Taxing problem

HSBC chief Michael Geoghegan's pay package is in the spotlight again - understandably, given the unending financial turmoil. At least the taipan can take solace in the fact that he's in Hong Kong and only paying 15 per cent in personal tax, light years away from the 40 per cent he would have been facing in Britain. And that's without even looking at the one-off super tax that Britain proposed for its own banking sector.

Still going strong

Noble Group executive chairman Richard Elman is known for his personal messages in his firm's annual reports but this one in its 2009 annual results, in the Financial Times, is a little bizarre.

Elman, 69, the driving force behind the US$5 billion commodities trading firm, seems to take comfort in the fact that he is the last man standing among his peers.

'I well remember my 40th birthday, I swear to you it was only a few years ago ... However, when I think about it, the restaurant is no longer there, the hotel long torn down, and sadly more of the friends who crowded around that table live on in my memory. I feel great, I am as healthy as a horse.'

Good to hear that, Richard! And even better to know that the group's balance sheet is as strong as your good self!