Cecil Chao: The odd tale of the playboy and his lesbian daughter
Tycoon Cecil Chao offers HK$500 million to any man who can win his girl Gigi's heart, even after she married her long-time gay partner
It's a story for a TVB soap opera - but it's happening in real life. Hong Kong's pre-eminent playboy tycoon has gone public to denounce his eldest daughter's plan to settle down with her - female - long-time lover.
Property developer Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, 76, whose life seems to have been inspired more by emulating Casanova than nurturing his business interests, turns out to have a very traditional view of marriage after all. He is set on a collision course with his openly gay daughter, socialite Gigi Chao, 33, offering HK$500 million to any man who can win her heart and become his son-in-law.
Chao denies that his daughter has married her girlfriend, Sean Eav, despite the lesbian couple's announcement last week that they had married in France, where the law recognises gay partnerships.
Cecil Chao has never married and kept a legion of girlfriends and mistresses over the decades. At the turn of this century, he claimed to have bedded 10,000 women. By contrast, Gigi, while prominent in high society, does not share his flamboyance. Cecil Chao has two other adult children, by different mothers.
But father and daughter have much else in common and have never previously had a public row. Gigi and Cecil Chao are both qualified helicopter pilots. Both are professional architects. Gigi has also been a long-time executive director of Cheuk Nang (Holdings), the listed property company over which her father has long presided.
At one time, Chao had thought of making Gigi heir to the family business empire built by his father, the Shanghai-born shipping tycoon Chao Tsong-yea. But both father and daughter have led unconventional lifestyles, in which business does not seem to be the priority.
Since the 1970s, Chao has been a perennial presence in tabloid magazines, which never tire of running photos of beautiful but often unnamed women in his arms or stories full of explicit details - which could only have come from the tycoon himself - about his romantic escapades.
Just last year, he posed with various bikini-clad models for a magazine after another playboy tycoon, Lam Kin-ming, of Crocodile Garments, did something similar for a rival magazine.
The woman Chao came closest to settling down with was, perhaps, the American-Vietnamese beauty Terri Holladay, with whom he fathered his youngest child, Roman. Holladay apparently thought they were married until their break-up in 1995. A court case followed but the two eventually settled.
Gigi, who runs Haut Monde Talent, a marketing, public relations and luxury accessories company, has not been at the centre of local media attention - until her father's HK$500 million offer to find her a man.