27 October 2016

Joseph Lau and the gift that keeps on giving

Girlfriends and diamonds go well together but daughters and diamonds?

Apparently, they go perfectly well, or Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau wouldn’t be splashing out millions at auctions.

On Thursday, Lau snagged a record-breaking HK$375 million (US$48.4 million) 12.03-carat blue rock at Sotheby’s and named it “Blue Moon of Josephine”.

A day earlier, he bagged a HK$222.3 million 16-carat pink sparkler at Christie’s which he christened “Sweet Josephine”.

Josephine is Lau’s seven-year-old daughter with girlfriend and former assistant Kimbie Chan.

In 2009, when Josephine was one year old, the Chinese Estates Holdings (00127.HK) founder paid US$9.5 million for a rectangular 7.03-carat blue diamond he later named “Star of Josephine”.

And last November, Lau reportedly plunked down US$32.65 million (HK$254 million) for a 9.75-carat pear-shaped blue diamond at a Sotheby’s auction. 

The prize went to Zoe, his daughter with Yvonne Lui, a former Miss Hong Kong pageant semi-finalist. It became the, ahem, “Zoe Diamond”.

Lau, estimated to be worth US$11.5 billion, is well known for making extravagant purchases of art, jets, wine and jewelry and for his generosity toward his girlfriends.

After their breakup with Lau, former Miss Hong Kong Michelle Reis and actress Rosamund Kwan continued to talk highly of him.

We’re not sure there’s a “Kimbie Diamond” or an “Yvonne Diamond” but judging by the lengths to which Lau goes to pamper the women in his life, there’s no telling what this serial gifter might come up with next.

For instance, in 2010, Forbes reported that Lau applied for shares in financial giant AIA for both Chan and Lui worth nearly HK$12 billion, about half of the retail portion on offer.

Lau named his Tsim Sha Tsui shopping mall “The One” in honor of Reis who uses it as her signature.

But the biggest gift may yet turn out to be the family silver itself — and it’s going to none of the women.

The lucky recipient is Lau Ming-wai, his son with wife Theresa Bo who died in 2003.

The younger Lau became non-executive chairman of Chinese Estates after his father was convicted by a Macau court for bribery and money laundering.

Ming-wai passed his chief executive role to Sue Chan, Kimbie Chan’s elder sister.

It looks like Lau is not done pulling nice surprises including one on himself.

In 2007, he was revealed to be among the first seven buyers of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet for private use.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

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EJ Insight writer

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