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I don’t suppose any Hong Kong person seriously thought Cecil Chao, wealthy playboy of the parish and brother of shipping tycoon George, would ever become an international media star. But as Andy Warhol famously said, everyone can be famous for 15 minutes. And Cecil’s attempts to wrest daughter Gigi away from her lesbian partner and into the arms of marriage to a bloke have failed spectacularly, but secured the 15 minutes. Even the offer of HK$500 million has failed to get Gigi to team up with some willing chap and split the spoils. That’s assuming Cecil could stump up the cash, but he’s unlikely to ever have to face that margin call.
Now, in both Britain’s FT and the Daily Telegraph, Cecil says that 33-year-old Gigi “can choose whatever she wants” – but the offer still stands. “Anyone who comes along to pursue Gigi, we will give them a moderately deluxe life,” he told the FT, ignoring Gigi’s civil partnership with her long-term girlfriend.
There’s no fool like an old fool and the British papers note that 76-year-old Cecil has his own unique approach to romance, claiming to have bedded 10,000 women.
“I never counted, but it’s possible,” he told the FT. “Every day you can date one, two, three or four women. I have many good friends. We share our life, not just limiting to one person. I like to live a free and happy life.”Interestingly, he reveals that since putting up Gigi’s dowry, he has himself received hundreds of proposals of marriage. But why would Cecil the Stud come down from the shelf? Surely, after 76 years, his “moderately deluxe life” suits him as it is. “Marriage is difficult, particularly under Hong Kong law. She can take a lot of your money away. It is safer not to be married,” he said. Gigi should take note of this, the first bit of sensible fatherly advice she has probably received.
Third generation outsmarts second
Many of Hong Kong’s billionaires are self-made, and like Li Ka-sing, the patriarch is still alive. The Chaos are a bit different, in that Cecil is second generation, his late father TY Chao having made the millions from shipping. That makes Gigi third generation, one of his three children by three different mothers. She is extremely smart, studied architecture in England like her father, and is an executive director of his luxury property development company Cheuk Nang, with projects in Hong Kong, China, Macau and Malaysia.
Gigi also has a sound business head on her, and runs a model agency and a PR company. While relations are not strained, daughter and father have not been seen out together socially lately, one tending to leave parties five minutes before the other arrives, but they are still on good terms. They have similar interests and both can fly a helicopter. Whether or not Gigi inherits the fortune is probably neither here nor there to her, since she has amassed enough loot of her own. So she may or may not one day become the chatelaine of Happy Lodge, Cecil’s Pokfulam pile on Victoria Road, all 16,000 gilded square feet of it.
What is certain is that all those tales of the first generation making it, the second squandering it and the third trying to claw it back are not strictly true in this case. All that can be said here is that common sense, good taste and business acumen seem to have skipped a generation.