Hong Kong Mogul Hotung Asks $3.99 Million in NYC
In New York, wealthy Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist Eric
Hotung is offering an apartment for $3.99 million.
The roughly 2,500-square-foot co-op unit is in the Osborne, built in 1885.
Diagonally across from Carnegie Hall, the building’s residents have included Leonard
Bernstein (one of his former apartments recently went into contract).
Mr. Hotung’s six-room, ninth-floor apartment has one bedroom, a library, two
bathrooms and two powder rooms. Mr. Hotung has owned the apartment for about 10
years and added a jade onyx entryway as well as mahogany floors and wall
A member of a prominent Hong Kong merchant family, the 83-year-old Mr. Hotung
has given to many causes, including organizations dedicated to enhancing
U.S.-China relations. - WALL
ST. JOURNAL 18 June 2009
A billionaire's largesse flows to U
-- A West Vancouver businessman, leader of one of Hong Kong's wealthiest
and most prominent families, has given $4-million to the University of Toronto
as part of a grand plan to create a network of Buddhist studies programs to span
The new program -- to be announced today at the
university's Scarborough campus -- is the fourth institution worldwide and the
second in Canada to receive millions of dollars to study and teach the eastern
religion as part of the legacy of billionaire Robert Hung-Ngai Ho.
Mr. Ho, 73, said his family's motto is to give back,
and he wants to return money that has been in his family since the time of his
"We have a focus of making Buddhism more
appreciated and more widely known," said the soft-spoken Mr. Ho in an
interview in his second-storey office in West Vancouver, decorated sparingly
with calligraphy and ancient Chinese pottery.
- by Jonathan Woodward GLOBE
& MAIL 3 April 2006
Family feud of legendary proportions
Sons Anthony, and Sean,
were disinherited by their father, Eric
Hotung, because, as the elder Hotung
said, he was `not dying fast enough' for them
Estrangement from one's sons is never easy, especially
when there is a distinguished family dynasty, never mind fabulous riches, at
stake. Neither, one assumes, is the decision to disinherit them.
For Eric Hotung, however, there has been no agonizing.
His decision is final: two of his sons, he insists, will never benefit from his
"They took a gamble,'' he says. "I would
have left them a good inheritance, and they gambled on getting it sooner. What
they were saying to me when they took me to court to get my fortune was,
'Father, you are not dying fast enough for us.'''
Hotung's rotund face flushes a florid red. His right
hand, tapping the arm of his chair in time with his words, reaches for another
Kent cigarette. Behind a plume of smoke, his watery blue eyes narrow. "No,
it doesn't sadden me to disinherit them,'' he says. "Why should it? They
must now make their own way. They broke their mother's heart with their behavior,
their grasping greed. Especially Sean, her favorite son. There will be no
reconciliation. Last week Sean telephoned. We refused to take the call.'' Hotung
shrugs, waving his hand dismissively. "I am through with them. I will leave
my billions to charity.''
It sounds harsh. Yet Eric Hotung, 79, CBE, a Hong Kong
resident who holds British nationality, is neither miserly nor vindictive. On
the contrary. He may have the ear of presidents and princes, he may be the owner
of the world's second most expensive house, he may think nothing of spending a
quarter of a million dollars on a ring for his wife - but it is neither his
wealth, estimated at HK$1 billion, nor the expensive tastes for which Hotung is
famed. Instead, it is as a philanthropist and an international diplomat - and in
those arenas, he has been unstintingly generous.
It is how he came to be dining with the Prince of
Wales and Camilla earlier this month. "Wholesome, very charming,'' Hotung
says. "He is a gentleman with much compassion.''
And years ago, when Hotung dined with Bill Clinton,
White House aides prepared notes on him for Clinton that read, ``Fabulously
wealthy, but a bit off-the-wall.''
Hotung's honors fill a foolscap sheet. They range from
his donation of US$2 million (HK$15.6 million) in aid to the victims of last
year's tsunami, to his heroic efforts in 2000 when he bought a boat to sail
12,800 refugees from West Timor to safety in East Timor.
Similarly, he has been lavish with his family. His
eight children were world travelers from birth, as the family flitted between
its six homes across the globe. Yet where two of his sons, Sean and Anthony, are
concerned, the family coffers are now firmly closed. ``They did not fight
fair,'' Hotung says. ``They raked up things best kept private.''
The source of his sons' ire has been two secret trusts
Hotung set up in 1979, bequeathing them shares worth HK$100 million in two of
his companies, to be paid out on his death. In 2002, Sean and Anthony went to
court to find out more about the secret trusts from Winnie Ho, their father's
cousin and a trustee.
The senior Hotung's response was to revoke the trusts
last year, but the sons successfully challenged that decision in Hong Kong's
``The trust was only two companies,'' Hotung says. ``A
fraction of what they would have got eventually, had they not played dirty.''
It was during the court case that his sons revealed
the existence of their illegitimate half-brother - a child born of an affair
decades ago between the adolescent Hotung and his glamorous older cousin, Winnie.
``It was right that the boy should be recognised,''
Hotung says. `` I think a man should step up to what he has done. He is another
of my sons, a delight to me.
``But [Sean and Anthony] broke their mother's heart by
telling of it in a court. Yes, it was good it came out. But not the manner in
which it did.''
Hotung will speak no more of the rift, save to admit
that it serves as a reminder that history has a habit of repeating itself.
Father-and-son estrangements are all too familiar in his family - along with
spectacular love affairs and bitter betrayals.
``That's true, father-son rifts are not unusual in my
family, but my father never sued my grandfather. Although,'' he adds, ``my
grandfather was a buccaneer, and genes will out, I suppose.''
Hotung stirs his coffee - served by So, his Chinese
batman, who silently pads through his master's suite in London's Savoy Hotel -
then settles back in his armchair. He wants to relate how his family fortunes
switched from stark poverty to fabled wealth over four generations.
Despite being troubled by sciatica and smarting eyes,
which So swabs with lotion every hour, Hotung remains a born raconteur. He
unbuttons his beige cashmere waistcoat, loosens his beige silk tie and takes off
his black fedora. The wispy white hair underneath gives him a scholarly air.
Around his well-padded waist sits a snug Hermes belt. On his finger is an
enormous jade ring, a HK$250,000 present for his wife - when she declared it
grotesque, he took to wearing it instead.
But before the history lesson, there is a phone call
to take. ``From home,'' he indicates. But which one - Washington, New York,
Hawaii, Shanghai or Japan? ``Washington,'' he replies, replacing the receiver.
``It was Ted Kennedy's old home.'' One of the more expensive ones, I venture?
``Six million dollars but I've just turned down 12 million for it,'' he says.
And the others, how much are they worth? ``No idea.
All I know is that I have no mortgages. But the Washington house, it had a ghost
when I bought it from Ted, you know. I had a Catholic priest exorcise it. No
good. Then I brought in this 400-pound Russian woman psychic. She shifted it.
That and a bit of feng shui. No more trouble.''
With a ``Where was I?'' Hotung returns to the family
origins. Nearly 160 years ago, an English trader called Walter Bosman arrived
barefoot and penniless in Hong Kong on board a clipper. Bosman married a Chinese
girl and had seven children. Their eldest, Robert, won a place at Jardine
Matheson, the trading house behind the West's push into Chinese opium markets.
He married a director's daughter, established a property empire that spanned
China, met Winston Churchill, entertained George Bernard Shaw and was knighted
by Queen Victoria. Sir Robert's eldest son, Edward - Hotung's father - inherited
the family wealth. ``A strict man, a financially astute man,'' Hotung says of
Memories from childhood remain vivid. Such as the
night, during World War II, when a 15-year-old Eric was sent by his father to
rescue what he could from the family mansion, which was under mortar attack.
``He told me to bring the two calf suitcases from
under the bed. He said they were full of money. And to bring the umbrella he had
bought in London 25 years before, and his suede jacket.''
The young Hotung braved a mortar attack and a beating
from looters to retrieve the possessions. ``When I got home, father opened the
suitcase and gave me a long, hard look over his glasses,'' he recalls. ``He was
suspicious that I had stolen some. Father had had the foresight to change the
money into small denominations. There was US$50,000 in there. Then he yelled at
me for losing the umbrella. He only calmed down when I showed him the bullet
holes in the jacket, and he realized I had nearly been killed.''
Hotung's upbringing was unusual. His father had
infuriated Sir Robert by marrying an Irish beauty, Mordia O'Shea. Father and son
became estranged and were reconciled only many years later.
``My mother was an embarrassment to my grandfather -
he wanted a Chinese dynasty. He offered her thousands to leave my father, but
she wouldn't. She was never allowed into my grandfather's house.''
Hotung, raised a Catholic by his mother, also married
an Irish-American beauty. ``My wife,'' he says, slipping from his wallet a
photograph of an achingly beautiful, auburn-haired woman pictured on her wedding
Right on cue, the telephone rings: it is his wife. He
speaks in Chinese, saying only ``darling'' in English. When he hangs up, he
lights another Kent (promising to say a Hail Mary for each subsequent cigarette)
and tells how he wooed her. It was before he inherited his fortune, when he
lived, he says, a ``sybaritic life.'' It took him eight years to convince
Patricia Anne to marry him. In that time, he and cousin Winnie had their affair.
``She, too, was a beauty,'' he says. His blue eyes close: he is lost,
momentarily, in a private reverie.
Hotung told his wife of the affair after they married,
but not of the son Winnie bore. ``I confessed that, shortly afterwards, on board
a train. My wife - my God, such fury. She said she was getting off at the next
stop and that the marriage was over. How did I convince her to forgive me? Oh, I
bought her an ice cream at the next stop, made her laugh.''
Hotung was 31 when he inherited his father's money.
``I wasn't always wise,'' he confesses. ``As a student in Washington, I had
spent too much time drinking beers and skipping lectures. When I had money, well
there were times when I spent it like a drunken sailor.''
Which is why, he says, children should not inherit
until they are older. ``Oh, at least 60.''
Hotung does, however, concede that some of the
responsibility for his sons' actions must rest with him. ``We gave them,
perhaps, too much.''
Although his inherited fortune was considerable, the
young Hotung accrued considerable debt during the 1960s. Part of his father's
estate included 10 old houses, which he razed to build high-rises. He borrowed
heavily. Then he went into the export business, once buying 30,000 pounds of
chicken and 3,000 crates of toilet rolls that no one wanted.
``I ended up selling door-to-door. But I learned a
lesson. I remember once being so frightened that I would have cut off two
fingers if I could have been released from my debt. Maybe it is the memory of
that debt that makes me think my sons should make their own ways,'' he says.
Suddenly, he breaks off. ``Where can one buy liquor
here? And flowers. I want to send flowers.''
Ill health has not affected his lifestyle overly, he
says, only in that he must be more circumspect about what he drinks. ``Six
vodkas, straight, at one sitting. No more.''
Two hours have passed and the conversation turns again
to Hotung's humanitarian achievements. Is there, I ask, one thing that he still
hopes to accomplish in his lifetime?
He gives me a guarded look. ``Yeeesss,'' he says.
``But it would be an international bombshell.'' Something to do with peace?
Again a hesitant agreement. To do with China? Another nod. ``If I tell you, you
must give me your word of honor you will not reveal it yet,'' he says.
I give my word and Hotung tells me of the one, final
achievement he yearns for. He promises, when it comes to fruition, to tell me
So much compassionate work. Is it the legacy he wishes
to leave, I ask? Hotung smiles impishly. ``I just want to ensure I shall get
into Heaven.'' -22 June 2005 THE
`to be sold'
The wealthy Hotung family is understood to be selling its flagship building, in
what is being taken as a sign that a number of properties from the family's
valuable portfolio will come on the market.
Property sources say a United States surveyor has been
assigned to sell the Tung Ying commercial building in Tsim Sha Tsui - one of
three properties the family said it would never sell.
If the building, which has an estimated value of
HK$1.6 billion, is bought it will be the most significant sale on the commercial
property market in years.
The family founder, Sir Robert Hotung, became
immensely wealthy as compradore for the Jardine trading house and his grandson,
Eric, is now a noted philanthropist.
Most of the family properties are managed by trust
funds and the family members are understood to have met several international
surveying firms recently after the property market showed signs of firming.
The sources said one US surveyor was chosen a few days
ago to be the agent for the Tsim Sha Tsui building, which was expected to be put
on the market this month.
The 15-storey Tung Ying Building on Nathan Road was
built in 1964, with a total floor area of 450,000 square feet. It brings in an
annual rental income of about HK$90 million.
Depending on market reaction to the first sale, the
sources predicted the East Town Building in Wan Chai would be the second
property to be put on sale. It has a total area of 140,000 square feet. A
developer interested in the Tung Ying Building believed it would be sold close
to the market price. It had a very high rental value as it was in a busy
district. It was unlikely to be redeveloped as the plot ratio had been fully
used. The purchase would therefore be a long-term investment with a return
around 6 per cent. -
3 September 2002 The
Eric Hotung's son Tony
Hotung and Wendy divorced in 2008.