Red Star

Chan Hoi-wan

A tycoon dowager?


Chan Hoi-wan with husband Joseph Lau

To many people it might seem that Chan Hoi-wan became rich overnight: indeed, a sudden transfer of billions of dollars in assets made her the richest woman in Hong Kong. But of course her story is a little more complicated than that.

Among the stars

Kimbie, as she was then known, first came to the public’s attention as a young entertainment reporter for Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, where she was popular with her interviewees. It was through this role that she met real estate tycoon Joseph Lau in 2001. A year later she left journalism to join Lau’s listed property flagship Chinese Estates.

By 2007 the pair had started a relationship. She was not the only one: at the time the divorced mogul was also in a tryst with Yvonne Lui, a former Miss Hong Kong contestant.

And then there was one

Lau separated from Lui in 2014 (the two were never married) but only confirmed the dissolution two years later in very public fashion: he had a full-page statement printed in several newspapers, detailing the circumstances between himself and Lui in five succinct points.

That was in November 2016. A month later, Lau married Chan. In February this year, Chan received control of a retail complex from her new husband. And on March 1, Lau transferred to her a 50.2% stake in Chinese Estates. This most recent gift brought Chan’s worth to approximately HK$50 billion, or $6.4 billion. (In 2015 Lau also set a world record buying two diamonds for his daughter with Chan, Josephine, spending $48.4 million on a blue diamond – pictured on page 15 – and $28.5 million on a pink diamond.)

Why the generosity?

Lau has experienced failing health (he had a kidney transplant last year). When their intent to marry was announced last year, Lau said he had already given billions to Chan in case he died and his former girlfriend, Lui, sought to claim the right to his fortune.

Lau lambasted Lui at the time, calling her greedy and claiming that, “Even if I gave her HK$10 billion, she’d still betray me for [an extra] HK$1.” Chan, on the other hand, fares much better in Lau’s estimations.

He told Apple Daily, “I’ve known Chan for more than 10 years, and she has never asked me to buy her gifts or to give her money,” adding, “She isn’t greedy. She’s simple. She’s not a bad woman. She’s taken good care of me and my children. She has a kind heart.”

Tycoon dowager?

Chan’s story has become a hot topic on Chinese social media. “Who said journalism is a hopeless sunset industry?” one weibo user asked. Even joined the discussion. “Chan spent only 16 years to become Hong Kong’s richest woman,” the state-run internet newspaper proclaimed.

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