Former chief secretary Henry Tang sold off part of his rare wine collection for more than HK$48 million, auction house Christie’s said on Sunday, after a scandal over a wine cellar at his home was partly blamed for his loss last year’s chief executive race.
Tang was set to become the chief executive last year until a series of gaffes and the discovery of an illegal basement containing the cellar at his luxury home made him deeply unpopular.
The two-day auction, which fetched HK$48.24 million, included a wide selection of Burgundys with vintages ranging from 1949 to 2010, Christie’s said, and dozens of wine aficionados attended with others bidding online.
The highlights of the sale were six magnums of Romanie Conti Vintage 1995 which sold for HK$1 million and 12 bottles of Montrachet Vintage 1978 which sold for HK$700,000.
Though there were thousands of bottles on offer, they represented just a small portion of Tang’s collection, the auction house said.
“He’s at a point where there’s enough wine that he can share them with joy,” Christie’s head of wine in China, Simon Tam, said at the sale.
In an interview with Tang last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that none of the bottles in the Christie’s sale were stored in the illegal cellar.
Tang is a well-known wine connoisseur who abolished duties on wine imports to Hong Kong in 2008, helping to turn the city into a regional wine centre.
Chief secretary until September 2011, Tang was thought to be Beijing’s choice for Hong Kong’s top job in the run-up to the chief executive election in March last year.
But his campaign began with a public admission of marital infidelity and suffered another blow with the discovery of the unauthorised basement, which reportedly also included a Japanese-style bath and a workout room.
His main rival Leung Chun-ying was subsequently handpicked for the post by a 1,200-strong election committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites, after China apparently switched sides.
Since his election, Leung has also apologised for illegal structures built without planning permission at his own luxury Hong Kong home.