Get to know the heirs of Hong Kong's most powerful families

SINGAPORE - The movers and shakers of Hong Kong's thriving economy since the late 1800s have diversified business empires spanning across property, banking, health care, telecommunications and entertainment.

These tycoons, who are now in their eighties and nineties, have started to pass the reins of their businesses to their children and grandchildren.

The heirs and heiresses of these families are mostly highly-educated individuals, and often times, they are followed closely by the paparazzi and make headlines as often as local celebrities. They are often featured in magazines and portrayed leading the high life, indulging in the best luxury products and services. Their personal lives, also covered extensively by the media, highlight fairytale weddings and high-profile divorces that have also kept the Hong Kong public intrigued.

One such personality is Stanley Ho, a casino magnate and father of 17 children, reported Forbes. The 92-year-old is said to have four wives.

In Jan 2014, Macau Daily Times reported that Ho's son, Lawrence Ho, and Ho's third wife, Ina Chan, has entered Forbes Hong Kong Rich List, thanks to a gaming boom in Macau. His daughter, Pansy Ho, also holds the title of being Hong Kong's richest woman.

Ho, who has been nicknamed "King of gambling", has been making headlines for years with his million-dollar deals and lawsuits. The Ho family is known to have internal disputes over how the company should be run and such disagreements have ended up in legal cases and estrangement. Wall Street Journal reported that the family is now embroiled in another dispute over Stanley Ho's controlling 18 per cent stake of his conglomerate, SJM Holdings.

The offsprings of Stanley Ho, who are not in the family business, have branched out into fashion and entertainment. Josie and Laurinda Ho are the limelight for the careers in show business, while Florinda Ho has dabbled in fashion. Sabrina Ho, however, was placed in the negative spotlight when she was caught by the paparazzi looking dazed and sitting on the pavement at Hong Kong's fashion district, Causeway Bay.

Another Hong Kong tycoon Lee Shau-kee and his sons also hail from one of Hong Kong's most prominent families. Born to a gold trader, Lee has consistently been ranked as one of Hong Kong's top three richest people and has a net worth of US$20 billion (S$25 billion) as at Jan 2014, reported Forbes.

Lee's second son Martin Lee married former actress Cathy Tsui, and are enjoying marital bliss with their three children.

In 2010, eldest son Peter Lee, who is unmarried, made headlines when the surrogate mother he hired bore him male triplets. The senior Lee awarded his employees with HK$10,000 (S$1,600) and donated HK$20 million to celebrate the joy of the births.

Shortly after, the joyful news turned sour when Hong Kong media questioned Peter Lee and his father on the legality of hiring a surrogate mother. Hong Kong law stipulates that one of both of the parent must be infertile, and the Southern Metropolis Newspaper reported that the use of a surrogate mother in this case might be considered a commercial deal.

wjeanne@sph.com.sg