Starlet splits with tycoon Richard Li

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 February, 2011, 12:00am

Former actress-singer Isabella Leong Lok-si has split with entrepreneur Richard Li Tzar-kai just months after giving birth to twin boys in June.

The 22-year-old announced the news in a press statement last night which read: 'This new year has marked a new chapter in my life: I have parted with Richard Li. I will always have fond memories of our time together and will continue to share custody of our children. We will ensure the kids' happy and healthy developments.'

Their first son, Ethan Li Cheung-chi, was born in 2009.

Leong's spokeswoman, Michelle Loo, said their relationship ended earlier this year and the decision was personal. No details were given.

Li, 44, is chairman of PCCW, Hong Kong's biggest telecommunications provider, and the younger son of Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest tycoon.

Loo told the Sunday Morning Post last night that their separation was completely unrelated to an article that appeared in Next magazine 10 days ago, which reported that Leong was dating a man in Toronto. The magazine published a series of photo shots with Leong sitting in a bar and chatting with a young man. Loo said the man in the photo was a childhood friend of Leong's from school who was also known to Li.

Loo said the pictures were taken last year, long before the couple split up. 'The article is unfair. Even rich people can have friends,' she said.

Asked whether Leong had made any plans for her future, such as returning to showbiz, Loo replied: 'Those issues are not Leong's priorities.'

Leong is now in Toronto with the couple's three sons. Li could not be reached for comment last night.

Lawyer Lau Kar-wah, an expert in civil disputes, said when two people were not married it would be almost impossible for one party to claim assets from his or her partner after they split up, especially if the relationship had lasted for only a few years.

Lau said the only possible dispute would be over the children's custody.

'If the issue of custody has been resolved, there is basically no room for further legal dispute.'

The lawyer said that in such cases the natural father would have a legal duty to provide maintenance for his children even if they were born out of wedlock. Under the law the children would also have a claim on their father's assets.

Leong, 22 years younger than the billionaire Li, was often described in media reports as a Cinderella. The couple reportedly met during the filming of Hollywood movie The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, in which Leong had a much-ballyhooed supporting role.