IT'S 10 o'clock on a grey Saturday morning and the ruler of a small kingdom has just come downstairs. His name is Cecil and he lives in what may be described as Cecil Land. This can be taken literally, to some extent, since his magnificent palace is the biggest in an estate on the west of Hong Kong Island called Villa Cecil. But it is also true in a metaphorical sense, as Cecil Chao, boss of Cheuk Nang Properties (Holdings), lives very much in his own world, driven by an unquenchable belief in his right to mould the world to fit his own needs and desires. Twenty-five storeys is the limit for office buildings in Kuala Lumpur. But not for Cecil. Monogamy is the norm in this society. But again not for Cecil. Cecil Chao Sze-tsung gets on with his life, and others adjust instead. Sometimes they get used to his ways quietly. Sometimes they fight and scream and call their lawyers. But they come round in the end. Cecil likes to win, and usually does. This morning, he has a variety of things on his mind. His servants trail behind him with telephones, so that wherever he sits in his spectacular 14,000 square feet brass and glass mansion, he is in contact with his business. The open plan ground floor is decorated with expensive sculptures and objets d'art , but a fax machine has pride of place, churning out documents. He constantly interrupts his guests and himself by taking and making calls. Cecil Chao has been in the press again recently, on two very different counts. On the business pages, his company Cheuk Nang Properties (Holdings), has various developments in Hong Kong, including a series of 7,000 sq ft apartments on The Peak. But the Hong Kong projects are relatively small compared to the overseas ones. The apple of Chao's eye at the moment is a $3 billion complex he is building in Kuala Lumpur. This will run to two million sq ft of space, including flats, serviced apartments, a hotel, and a 70-storey office tower, having obtained an exemption from a rule limiting buildings to 25 storeys. In that city, it will be second only in height to the record-setting Petronas Towers. The name of the complex? Chao Centre. Of course. What else? 'I'm not scared of putting my name on things. It shows you are confident about the quality of your work,' he says. But he has also been in the press this month because of his other life. He was on the cover of Ming Pao Weekly with a statuesque Shanghainese model. Surely this must mean that he has fallen out again with Terri Holladay, mother of his youngest child? A visitor gingerly asks how things are with Terri at the moment. 'She realises that I was very fair to her and was treating her quite well,' the tycoon replies. 'People have different . . . ' The phone starts to bleat and he snaps the handset to his face. 'Wei? Sure. I'll pick him up 'round about a quarter to one or one o'clock. Yes. Bye.' He smiles. 'That was Terri calling to ask me if I want to pick up the baby,' he said. Evidence had arrived, on cue, that Ms Holladay has learned to adjust. They remain friends, he says, although they no longer live together. Chao was born in Shanghai in 1936, one of four children of a lawyer-turned-businessman. His father imported cigarettes into China for Philip Morris. Seeing the benefits possible from international business, Chao senior went into the transport line, starting a shipping firm called Wah Kwong. The family moved to Hong Kong in 1948, when Shanghai was 'liberated', and Cecil went to school in the territory before attending university in the United Kingdom. Today, he feels accusations that he got his money from his family are unfair. 'I didn't inherit my business - I worked really hard by myself,' he says. The shipping business went through difficult times, and Chao's parents eventually passed the business on to two of their sons, Frank, the eldest, and George, the fourth. Cecil, the third son, found that his life as a well-connected architect in the 1960s and 1970s caused him to spend time with many up-and-coming real estate businessmen, including Cheng Yu-tung of New World, Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land, and others. He decided to move into the property business himself. His firm, Cheuk Nang Properties, is a substantial concern, with upmarket buildings in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne. Cecil's ascendancy in the ranks of his family may be inferred from the fact that most of the members now live in his 145,000 sq ft Pokfulam estate, Villa Cecil. His parents, in their 80s, are still alive. The enclave is quiet on weekends. Since it is a Saturday, he has personal affairs on his mind as well as business ones. Child Number One, Gigi, 17, is about to go to Manchester University in Britain to study architecture. Chao is delighted. In the 1950s, he went to Durham University to study architecture. Child Number Two is with him. Howard, 12, is playing Nintendo-style computer games on the television in the main room. The most publicity in recent years has accrued to Child Number Three, Roman, aged three, and his mother Terri Holladay. The fairytale of the poor Vietnamese-American girl who grew up and married a tycoon was much covered by the Hong Kong press - as was every detail of the stormy relationship, break up, and partial reconciliation that followed. Cecil prefers to make as few business trips as possible. When he does check out of Villa Cecil, it is mainly to go to Kuala Lumpur to see the building which bears his other name. His phones rings again, and the visitor leaves the modern mansion which has seen so many tales of love and money. The maid switches on the huge hi-fi system to provide background music, and Heartbreak Hotel starts playing.