Robert Lee Chi-hong has enjoyed three distinct careers in his 51 years: rock 'n' roll drummer, lawyer and property salesman. This mix is not as incongruous as it might seem because the three vocations have overlapping requirements. All depend, in part, on fine timing and showmanship. In his present incarnation as chairman of Richard's Li Tzar-kai's PCCW Infrastructure, Mr Lee's goal is to complete and sell or lease the various components of the Cyberport project which is touted as Hong Kong's premier high-technology working and living environment. Mr Lee appears to be enjoying the role he assumed in August after six years as an executive director of second-tier property company Sino Land. 'Being chairman of PCCW Infrastructure is very attractive because it's not very often that you get to spend three to four years developing a single project,' he said in his office at Cyberport 2. He says his previous experience - as a lawyer with the firm Deacons, and as Sino's director of marketing, sales, finance and development - has prepared him for the task which could be the grande finale of his career. 'My main task is to bring clarity to the unique features of the development. Not only am I interested in the commercial side, I am extremely involved in the design of the residential units and their amenities.' That's not surprising considering Mr Lee has decided to buy into the dream and live at Cyberport with his wife, Iwanbeo, and daughter Angel-Rhonda when the project is completed. At present the family lives in Tai Tam. 'You can be certain that the clubhouse will be pretty good. I'm taking a particular interest in that,' he said. PCCW is at the tail end of the investment phase of Cyberport. Mr Lee says the revenue generation phase will begin from the first quarter of next year. 'That's when we'll begin the sale of the first batch of 544 residential units representing 20 per cent of the residential portion's ground floor area,' he said. Much has been written about Cyberport amounting to a white elephant or a glorious folly fabricated from the dreams of chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and Richard Li at the peak of the Internet boom. Obviously, Mr Lee thinks differently and says the numbers support his view. 'We expect Cyberport to generate sufficient sale proceeds to cover on-going development costs by the fourth quarter of 2003 and this cash flow sufficiency is predicated upon the sale of 400 to 500 units a year. By December 31, we will have US$500 million invested in Cyberport and next year's investment will be around US$100 million to US$150 million assuming these units are sold.' At Sino, Mr Lee was known for his completion abilities. A local property analyst said Sino sold about 15,000 units during the six years Mr Lee was there. 'That's about HK$70 billion worth. Sino's balance sheet is in much better shape with gearing just about halved during the period to about 25 per cent,' the analyst said, adding that the two Roberts were considered a good team with Robert Lee providing a counterpoint to chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong's obsessive attention to detail. So, were there any hard feelings when Mr Lee told Mr Ng that he would be leaving to work for the opposition? 'I learned a lot from Robert Ng and I place high value on my time at Sino, but Cyberport has a unique appeal,' he said diplomatically. Some of that appeal surely stems from the generous terms under which Richard Li employs his senior people. New directors are awarded a sign-on incentive out of Mr Li's own pocket. In Mr Lee's case, he received 4.95 million shares which at the time were worth HK$1.19 each. PCCW shares now stand at HK$1.44, netting Mr Lee a tidy paper profit of about HK$1.23 million. Unlike his boss, Mr Lee comes from a modest background. His father was a money changer while his mother owned a small musical instruments shop. 'I started playing the drums in my mother's shop and found that I had a feel for it. Some time later, a few of my school friends and I started a band that was pretty successful for a while in the sixties.' Joe Junior and the Side Effects released six records by the time Robert Lee was 16. Their big hit song was Here is a Heart. 'Having a music shop meant that we all spent a lot of time there. We were always asking my mother for things from the shop. It was a great time of my life but I knew I had to move on,' he said. Moving on involved going to the United States to study at Cornell University where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science. Mr Lee decided that Europe was more suited to his interests so he relocated to London where he was admitted as a solicitor after doing his articles. After several years in London he returned to Hong Kong and joined Deacons where he practised as a China specialist. It was there he met Robert Ng while doing some work for Sino Land. His stay in Europe honed Mr Lee's appreciation of the good life. He is a renowned gourmand who reputedly hosts splendid dinner parties. He is also a collector of 18th century Japanese silk, French tapestry, Chinese calligraphy, marble sculpture and antique French furniture. At the moment, however, he is absorbed in Cyberport and devising strategies to make the development attractive to potential clients. This leads him to talk at length about the government's recent housing policy change and the benefits it could bring PCCW. 'The change in policy is highly supportive of price stabilisation. With land supply control measures in place we are confident that [the sales] target is realistic and achievable, particularly given the prime location of the Cyberport site combined with a scarcity of land on Hong Kong island and the prospect of the MTRC Island South Extension,' he enthused. He says the change in government policy has improved confidence and sales across Hong Kong have increased. In the final two weeks of last month, weekend sales rose by 300 per cent and prices firmed by an average of 3 per cent across the board. Property may be his main interest at the moment, but does he know what happened to the other members of Joe Junior and the Side Effects? 'Well, we are all still alive. Joe Junior is still performing as a soloist in venues around Hong Kong. In fact, when I was at Sino, he entertained potential buyers at the launch of one of our developments. It was great to see him and he's still got a good voice.' Biography Robert Lee was born in Hong Kong in 1951. He graduated in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in political science from Cornell University. He was enrolled as a solicitor in Britain in 1979 and admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong in 1980. He joined the London firm of solicitors, Pritchard Englefield & Tobin, and remained there for four years before returning to Hong Kong to take a position at Deacons. When he left that firm in 1996, he was a senior partner specialising in banking, property development, corporate finance and dispute resolution in Hong Kong and the mainland. In 1996, he joined Sino Land as executive director where his responsibilities included sales, finance, acquisitions, investor relations, marketing and property management. In August Mr Lee joined PCCW Infrastructure as chairman. He is also an executive director of PCCW, a constituent of the Hang Seng Index. Mr Lee is also a member of the panel of arbitrators of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade in Beijing. Mr Lee became a notary public in Hong Kong in 1991.