Skip to main content

Hong Kong tycoon says offer to suitors of lesbian daughter is off the table

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 6:33 PM EST, Thu January 30, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cecil Chao says the money he offered "stays in my pocket"
  • In 2012, he offered a huge dowry to any man who married her
  • She urged him this week to treat her longtime female partner as a normal "human being"
  • But he says he has "no intention of mixing my life with her life"

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The flamboyant Hong Kong tycoon who offered millions of dollars to any man who could win the heart of his lesbian daughter says the proposal is now off the table.

But he's still refusing to welcome her long-term female partner into his family.

Cecil Chao, a wealthy real estate developer, made headlines around the world in 2012 when he offered 500 million Hong Kong dollars (roughly $65 million) to any man who succeeded in marrying his daughter.

'Dear Daddy', men aren't for me
$64M to marry my gay daughter

Recent reports that he was willing to double the offer put his family back in the headlines. Gigi Chao, 34, responded by writing him an open letter, published in local newspapers this week, asking him to come to terms with her sexuality.

In the letter, she told him that she was happy in her relationship and urged him to treat her partner, Sean Eav, as "a normal, dignified human being."

"If Gigi's said that this is what she chooses, then it's all over," Cecil Chao said Thursday an interview with CNN's Monita Rajpal. He said the huge sum he had offered to potential suitors "stays in my pocket."

Daughter asks him to accept who she is

Refusal to welcome partner

But the 77-year-old tycoon, who has three children but has never married, is unable to embrace his daughter's love life.

"I can't say I am happy with her choice," he said. "If this is her choice then it's for her."

And he said he wouldn't be welcoming Eav, 46, into his family, despite his daughter's plea.

"I have no intention of mixing my life with her life," Cecil Chao said. "But if this is what she wants, then I respect her choice."

His comments follow Gigi Chao's poignant letter, explaining the situation to him.

"As your daughter, I would want nothing more than to make you happy," she writes. "But in terms of relationships, your expectations of me and the reality of who I am, are not coherent."

'Her private life is hers'

Cecil Chao originally proposed the multimillion dollar dowry in 2012 after it emerged that his daughter and Eav had their relationship blessed in a church ceremony in Paris.

He said Thursday that his daughter had never told him in person that she was a lesbian.

"I saw it in the paper," he told CNN's Rajpal, even though they work together at his company.

"We see each other every day," he said. "We have many occasions to be together, but her private life is hers."

The successful businessman earned a reputation in Hong Kong for appearing on the pages of local newspapers and magazines in the arms of beautiful women. He once reportedly bragged of having had 10,000 girlfriends.

Men are 'just not for me'

In her letter, Gigi Chao tells her father that she "will always forgive you for thinking the way you do, because I know you think you are acting in my best interests."

And she says she takes responsibility for some of her father's misplaced expectations.

When he first announced the colossal dowry in 2012, she said at the time she found it "quite entertaining."

But this week she appeared to set the record straight.

"I'm sorry to mislead you to think I was only in a lesbian relationship because there was a shortage of good, suitable men in Hong Kong," she writes. "There are plenty of good men, they are just not for me."

Decision not final

Cecil Chao said Thursday that he offered the money any man who could wed his daughter because he wanted "to provide the best choice for Gigi" for her future life.

She says in her letter that she felt "an indescribable discomfort" in the presence of boyfriends she had in the past. But with 46-year-old Eav, she says she is "comfortable and satisfied with my life and completely at ease with her."

In the interview Thursday, Cecil Chao repeatedly said that the big financial offer to any man who could win his daughter's hand in marriage was finished.

"I hope you or the other press are not going to talk about it anymore," he told Rajpal.

But he also suggested that he wasn't letting go of the idea entirely, saying that the offer was over "for the time being."

When asked what he meant by that, he said, "Until she changes her mind."

CNN's Michala Sabnani and journalist Alisha Haridasani contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
A captured fighter tells CNN's Ivan Watson: "They gave us drugs... that made you go to battle."
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A terminally ill woman who plans to take her own life checks off the last item.
updated 7:40 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
In a plot straight out of Hollywood, federal agents gain access to a suspected Triad boss' Vegas hotel room by pretending to fix the Internet connection.
updated 12:34 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Was it only black and Latino men who harassed a woman in NYC? The filmmaker has found himself in a race controversy.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
The history of human rights often overlooks the struggles of gay people. This must change.
updated 9:15 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Armed with Kalashnikovs and chanting for the dead comrades, women are among ISIS' most feared enemies. They are fighting for their families -- and now they are getting U.S. help.
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Lere Mgayiya put his best foot forward and set up a shoe-shine firm after his career plans fell flat.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
One Chinese drone manufacturer wants to take away the warmongering stigma of "drones."
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Sketcher Luis Simoes is traveling the world -- slowly. And he's packed his sketchbook.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
European states help North Korea's brutal treatment of its people by allowing luxury goods like cars and cognacs to evade sanctions, two experts say.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT