22 July 2018
Joseph Lau is said to be suffering from diabetes. He says he has given Yvonne Lui (inset) more than HK$2 billion in cash, valuables and other assets. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA
Joseph Lau is said to be suffering from diabetes. He says he has given Yvonne Lui (inset) more than HK$2 billion in cash, valuables and other assets. Photos: HKEJ, CNSA

Joseph Lau’s HK$2 bln heart-breaker

In many ways, front-page ads in major Hong Kong newspapers are written like corporate announcements, although the content may be much more interesting than usual.

The announcement by tycoon Joseph Lau was nothing more than cutting ties with ex-girlfriend Yvonne Lui and calling a halt to media speculation on their relationship.

However, the ad in seven major newspapers on Tuesday drew attention to one question — how much did Lau, 65, the flamboyant playboy who made billions from his shrewd land and stock investments, pay the 40-year-old?

The answer is in the ad.

Lau wrote: “Prior to the break-up, I maintained and took care of Ms. Lui and have given her lots of money, jewellery and other gifts, the total value of which exceeded HK$2 billion [US$258.83 milion].

“Ms. Lui has accumulated considerable wealth and she is now a very wealthy woman. She can maintain a luxurious lifestyle by herself without my financial support.”

If love can be expressed in dollar terms, we reckon this relationship is indeed expensive.

Given more than half of Hong Kong’s nearly 2,000 listed companies are worth below HK$2 billion, we suggest Forbes and Fortune try to get Lui into an official ranking of Asia’s richest women.

According to local reports, Lau and Lui hitched up in 2001 when Lau went to a Louis Vuitton shop in London, where Lui worked as a part-time saleslady during her college days after losing in the Miss Hong Kong pageant.

The next year, she gave birth to their daughter Zoe but they did not marry.

Their relationship went well until 2008 when Lau’s other girlfriend, Kimbie Chan, a former celebrity journalist with Next Media, also gave birth to Lau’s child — and the rivalry started.

The turning point came when Lau was reported to be pretty upset with Lui when she addressed herself as Mrs. Lau in an open letter to discredit Chan, whom she addressed as Lau’s assistant.

What happened afterward is anybody’s guess but looking at the changes in Chinese Estates’ board of directors might offer some ideas.

Lui was made an executive director in July 2012 but quit in April 2015. Lau said in yesterday’s announcement that they broke up in 2014.

Chan, on the other hand, was never named to the board but her two younger sisters were. Sue Chan Sze-wan was promoted to chief executive of Chinese Estates a year ago after being appointed to the board in 2012.

No one except Lau and Lui knows the financial details involved in their 15-year relationship.

One sparkling detail emerged when Lau paid a record HK$254 million for a 9.75-carat diamond he later named “Zoe Diamond” at Sotheby’s New York auction in 2014. Earlier, he bought the “Zoe Red” ruby for HK$65 million at Christie’s Hong Kong.

According to Apple Daily, Lui was also given HK$1 billion cash and now owns eight properties including a house in Barker Road and a six-storey building at Eton Square in London.

She was also reported to be the owner of the car license plate “1 L0VE U”.

Lau, the fugitive tycoon convicted of bribery in Macau, was in the spotlight lately after he was pictured in a wheelchair, appearing to have lost much weight.

A court case he brought against Apple Daily revealed that he has diabetes.

In response to Lau’s advertisement, Lui told Apple Daily that she and her children were heart-broken.

“It does not matter who made the statement, or what the content is about,” Lui said. “The children and I only hope you can get well soon and stay away from those people who trouble you.”

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EJ Insight writer

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