The $65m dowry for any man who can woo Cecil Chao’s lesbian daughter
Hong Kong property tycoon Cecil Chao wants granchildren to inherit his business so he is offering ‘a moderately deluxe life’ to any man who can woo his daughter
By David Pilling
The wrought-iron gate at the top of the path leading to Cecil Chao’s waterfront mansion says “Happy Lodge”. And Chao, a Hong Kong property tycoon, certainly takes every opportunity to be happy. Colourful even by the flamboyant standards of the city’s billionaires, the 76-year-old claims to have slept with 10,000 women – and to be adding regularly to his tally. A lifelong bachelor, he made headlines last September by offering a $65m bounty to any man who could woo and marry his lesbian daughter, Gigi. It turned out that he was not so much offended by her sexuality as in want of grandchildren to whom he could pass on his business.
I had caught a glimpse of Chao soon after he made his novel proposal. I was visiting friends in Pok Fu Lam, a quiet residential neighbourhood on the western edge of Hong Kong island. They lived in Villa Cecil, a collection of apartments owned by Chao with stupendous views of the Lamma Channel. A Rolls-Royce pulled up to the gates of Happy Lodge at one end of the complex. It bore the licence plate “Cecil”. In the front sat Cecil himself, waving delightedly to someone. In the back were two glamorous young women.
Now I was sitting in Cecil’s living room. (Hong Kong is a friendly place where almost everyone refers to each other by their first name.) The gate to Happy Lodge had been set ajar, so I had wandered down the path past a fishpond full of koi carp. The little door to his house was also open. In the living room was a grand piano, a tall, simply decorated Christmas tree, two large modernist statues and lots of glass and chrome. The far wall was glass, behind it a beautiful sea view. It reminded me of the Isla Negra house owned by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet enamoured of the ocean.
There didn’t seem to be a bell. It was warm, even in early December, so I stood outside until, after some time, I was greeted by a Filipina maid who ushered me inside. The enormous room was round with an improbably high ceiling in black mirror. Overlooking it was a balcony with an entertainment area and a banqueting room. You reach the top floor by a winding staircase. As the entrance is on the third floor the staircase also winds down to the staff quarters and to Cecil’s bedroom, site – almost inevitably – of a round bed.
Cecil eventually appears from below and we sit on one of three sofas arranged in discrete areas of the room. He looks improbably young and easy of movement for a man of 76 – a youthful appearance he attributes to his regular basketball sessions and nocturnal activities.
He’s wearing a brown suede jacket, a sweater, cravat and casual trousers. He calls one of his staff – he has eight in total, including a driver – to bring him his “light” sunglasses. A maid appears with a pair of Ferragamo.
Cecil designed the house himself some four decades ago when he returned from studying architecture at the UK’s Durham University. “It started with very contemporary thinking: black mirrors, stainless steel, high ceiling, skylights,” he says. “But when you get older you like Chinese and European classical culture,” he adds, gesturing to the assortment of antique furniture, ink paintings, Chinese lacquerware and Buddhist statues around. “We also have a Japanese garden.”
The house, at around 16,000 square ft, was designed to let in lots of natural light and to incorporate the sea view. “We tried to keep both sides light, mingling in the green environment,” he says. “So you have an interior garden mixed with an exterior garden and a waterfall outside.” He notices the waterfall is not operating and picks up a white telephone from the glass coffee table. “Julia, can you turn on the waterfall,” he says, his instructions transmitted through loudspeakers as though he were a Bond villain. “Our guest would like to see the sharks,” I imagine him saying. “Julia, can you please release them.”
We walk over to his terrace for a better view of the ocean. Below is a kidney-shaped swimming pool with a small stone elephant poised as if about to dive in. There are rocks and coral on the pool floor. “So we can snorkel,” he explains.
to be continued
Beyoncé rumored to be interested in Houston property
by Dan X. McGraw
A 25,000-square foot Houston home is attracting numerous suitors, possibly including Beyoncé. The Piney Point Village home, which is owned by Douglas R. Johnson and his ex-wife Melanie Johnson, was original priced for $19 million. In an effort to sell the home, the couple has slashed more than $13 million off the price over the past three years.
The home is currently on the market for $5.9 million. The reduced price is helping to attract prospective buyers, mainly people in the oil and gas industry, Alberto Alaniz, the owner of Prime Texas Properties, said. He said a wealthy oilman was flying his private jet into Houston to check out the property next week.
Alaniz said his agency has sent the real estate listing to Beyoncé. He said she was rumored to be interested in the property for her mother, Tina Knowles.
While the price is steep, it isn’t hard to see why Beyoncé or anyone else might be interested in the property.
Inside the 25,000-square foot mansion, you’ll find 16 bathrooms, six bedrooms and two suites. The Houston mansion also packs two Jacuzzis and a pool with a private entrance.
On the third floor, the home has a game room and theater room. It also has a “hobby room with a large climate-controlled cedar closet” that could be used from everything from wine to cigars.
The home also has former Enron executive Ken Lay’s desk and wrought iron from the Art and Humanities building in Argentina.
Oddly enough, the home is a bit of bargain for a multi-million home. Its reduced price would make it $250 per square foot, much lower than similarly priced and sized homes.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West : wrought iron staicases for the Mediterranean-style mansion in Bel Air
Lifestyles of the rich and famous! The first glimpse inside the $11 million Mediterranean villa that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West will call home (but they’re already gutting it)
By SARA NATHAN
The stunning Mediterranean-style mansion in Bel Air boasts wrought-iron staircases, chandeliers and ‘old world’ fittings – so perhaps it will come as no surprise that the high-profile parents-to-be have already made plans to gut the property.
The luxurious home – which was on the market for $10,750,000, according to Trulia – sits in a private gated community in the exclusive California suburb, and is a whopping 10,000 square feet.
As Kim, 32, and Kanye, 35, are enjoying a ‘babymoon’ in Paris, the first pictures of their new home show a light and airy property that features a two-storey living room, an infinity pool and a library – with plenty of space for their little one to run around.
According to the listing, the 3/4 acre estate is situated on a view-commanding ridgeline.
Designed by architect Ron Firestone, the listing says: ‘custom craftsmanship and old world details are combined with every modern amenity.’
It adds: ‘Hand forged wrought iron and glass front doors open up to the two story formal entry with black walnut parquet floors.
‘A two story living room flanked by Cantera stone columns overlooks the rear grounds and mountains beyond. The great room includes wide planked floors, beamed ceilings and a stone fireplace and features a bar and stone wine cellar.
‘The library serves as a warm respite, detailed in rich woods and a burgundy marble fireplace. The master suite has spectacular views from every window, a fireplace, sitting room, large walk-in closet and changing area.’
The master bathroom has large steam shower, spa tub and massage room, while the massive backyard is a dream with sweeping lawns, an infinity edged pool and a loggia that serves as an outdoor living room and kitchen.
TMZ reported on Tuesday that the couple have already gutted the interior and are planning to add an extra 4,000 feet to complete their dream home.
A source told TMZ the new home will be ‘an Italian-style villa, with a gym, movie theater, full hair and make-up salon, bowling alley, basketball court, indoor and outdoor pool.’
Not forgetting a nursery of course.
The stunning infinity pool is visible in new shots of the property, which also has a pool house and large grassy lawn.
The mansion also has a grand driveway and dramatic entrance, as well as plenty of windows to let in the light and a spacious garage.
The pair will join A-list neighbour Jennifer Aniston, Los Angeles Clippers basketball player Chris Paul, and founder of the Girls Gone Wild entertainment franchise Joe Francis as the famous names in the neighbourhood.
Kanye is well known for his love of interior design and will no doubt be keen to put his stamp on their first home together.
The couple have been dating since last spring and were seen in the City of Love on Tuesday after shopping at the Lanvin and Celine boutiques before dining at L’Avenue restaurant.
Kim was wrapped up in a black cape, with any sign of a bump firmly under wraps, while Kanye defeated the cold in a black blazer.
Before their departure, a Kardashian source told Us magazine the couple plan to holiday in Paris “for a week just to chill. It’s a little babymoon!”
The couple – who don’t plan to marry yet as Kim is still married to Kris Humphries – surprised many after reportedly turned down a $3 million offer for the first photos of their baby.
A source close to the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star told TMZ that she and the Otis rapper have been flooded with lucrative offers for their child’s first pictures and were offered the hefty fee from one publication outside the States.
It is unclear if Kim will sign up as it was recently revealed that she and Kanye are planning to share the pregnancy and their adjustment to parenthood with their fans through a show on E!
E! Entertainment network president Suzanne Kolb said: ‘Kim and Kanye are an incredibly dynamic couple, and their baby news is just so exciting.
‘Like so many Kardashian fans, we love it when this close-knit family gets even bigger. We look forward to sharing the joy as they prepare for more diapers, more bottles and without a doubt, more fabulous baby wear.’
Melissa Gorga’s New Jersey Home
The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Melissa Gorga has listed the home she shares with her real-estate developer husband, Joe. They built the six-bedroom manse in Montville Township, New Jersey in 2009. It’s now up for sale for $3.8 million.
Gorga’s New Jersey home sprawls over 2.24 acres, and has an English slate roof.
The Italian marble foyer in Gorga’s home has marble staircases with wrought-iron bannisters, and cedar French doors.
Chandeliers, carved bookcases, golden detailing and domed ceilings fill the property.
Two bedrooms belong to Gorga’s three children, including one room with a sports theme.
The other child’s bedroom is all done in girly pink, with soft drapery as a headboard and a chandelier over the bed.
The 13,500-square-foot home also has a home theater with luxe leather seating and wood detailing.
Comedian Chris Hardwick, whose offbeat humour embraces nerdiness, has purchased a house in the Hollywood Hills for $2.05 million.
Out-of-the-ordinary features include an outdoor mosaic tile bath with a 200-year-old faucet and a log cabin art studio. The 4,200-square-foot home, built in 1924 and recently renovated, has wrought-iron balconies, vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, four bedrooms and four bathrooms. There are terraced gardens and stone walls on the quarter-acre lot.
Hardwick, 41, founded the cross-platform Nerdist entity; hosts Talking Dead (2011-present), a talk show that follows new episodes of The Walking Dead; and voices a lead character on Nickelodeon’s Back at the Barnyard (2007-present).