07 August 2015
by Su-Lin Tan
The billionaire who bought Australia's most expensive home
Dr. Chau Chak Win
Chinese-Australian billionaire Dr Chau Chak Wing paid about $70 million for La Mer, James and Erica Packer's Vaucluse six-storey mansion, beating the $52 million paid in 2013 for another house in Sydney's eastern suburbs, the Point Piper mansion Altona, and setting an Australian record.
James & Erica Packer's Mansion
Real estate agents said Dr Chau has picked up one the last few very expensive mansions for sale in Sydney.
"All the top end are gone. There is still the 7000-square-metre owned by the Fairfax family, but there's not a lot out there, " LJ Hooker's Bill Malouf said.
Dr Chau is a property developer in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, the Cantonese-speaking part of China. His directorships in Australian companies lists him as a resident of Hong Kong. He is a citizen of Australia.
Forbes China Rich List 2014 ranked him at number 220 with a net worth of $US1 billion ($1.36 billion).
Dr Chau spoke very little at the unveiling of the Frank Gehry-designed wing for the University of Technology Sydney named after him in acknowledgment of the $20 million he donated for its construction.
His son studied at the university, where he has also given $5 million for student scholarships. His daughter, former Bob Carr staffer Winky Chow, edits his Chinese-language newspaper News Express Daily, which is circulated in Sydney and Guangzhou. His wife lives in Sydney in a mansion in Sydney's Pulpit Point.
His flagship company, the Kingold Group based in China, has a diverse range of interests, including hospitality, pharmaceuticals, eco-tourism and media.
But it was his other Australian companies which made headwinds in the political arena.
In 2006-07 and 2007-08, just before the 2007 federal election, Kingold, HK Kingson Investment and a relative's company, Chun Yip Trading, donated about $2 million to both the Labor party and the Coalition, making him one of Australia's biggest political donors.
John Howard, Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan have all been guests at Chau's expansive Conghua estate, north of Guangzhou, which includes a 6000-square-metre museum with 20,000 Chinese antiquities, a 27-hole golf course and a temple rumoured to hold the cremated remains of Buddha.
He kept a low profile after news of his donations broke in 2009, but in 2013-14 he donated about $900,000 to both Labor and the Coalition through Australia Kingold Investment Development Co.
While little is known about Dr Chau – he gives few interviews – or what he is a doctor of, he has declared his love for Australian wine.
"Living in Australia [is] just like tasting the Australian wine: the more you taste it, the more you will fall in love with it,"
he told UTS during the opening of the Gehry wing.