Burgundy winery's buyer is Stanley Ho's right-hand man, Louis Ng

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 2:50am

The man behind the purchase of a Burgundy winery that has caused an uproar in France has been revealed as Louis Ng Chi-sing, the right-hand man of Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun.

Ng is the chief operating officer of SJM Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed company which oversees 17 casinos in Macau. Its parent company is the Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau, which is privately held by Ho and his family. Ng has worked for them for 34 years.

He bought the 12th-century Chateau de Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy's Cote de Nuits this year for €8 million (HK$77.9 million), the Wine Spectator reported. French politicians and winemakers expressed dismay after discovering the winery had been sold to an overseas buyer.

The vineyards remain under lease to three local growers, according to Wine Spectator.

The Gevrey-Chambertin winemakers syndicate had offered to buy the chateau for €5 million but lost out to Ng. The group's president, Jean-Michel Guillon, was not happy.

"I am not angry because the investor is Chinese; it is because priority has not been given to local winemakers. We ask the French government to step up and legislate in order to give priority to the locals," he told the South China Morning Post.

Guillon said a sign appeared at the entrance a few days ago saying: "The chateau is not open to the public any more."

Guillon said: "The castle represents the wealth of our heritage, and it should stay the property of the winemakers."

France's far-right Front National said local winemakers should have been given government help to preserve the national treasure for the country.

Ng is the second Chinese businessman to buy a Burgundy vineyard. Shi Yi, who now lives in Burgundy, bought more than a hectare of vineyards at Vosne-Romanee this year.

Chinese influence in French wine has been growing. Thomas Jullien, the Bordeaux Wine Council's Asia representative, said the number of Bordeaux estates owned by Chinese had grown from two to 25 in three years. "Bordeaux is more open to foreign investments," he said, adding that local veterans were happy with the new owners in general. "New investors have spent money on updating the winemaking facilities, equipment and buildings."