Albert Yeung (楊受成), the founder of Emperor Group–one of the most powerful conglomerate empires in Hong Kong and the Chinese entertainment industry–was a controversial figure who often graced tabloid magazines. In an explosive interview with Ming Pao Weekly, the 69-year-old recounted his experience in prison, surviving a kidnapping incident, and cheating on his two wives. Mr. Yeung also offered the inside scoop on the biggest celebrity scandals, such as Jackie Chan’s (成龍) extra-marital affair, Carina Lau’s (劉嘉玲) nude photos taken during her abduction, and Nicholas Tse’s (謝霆鋒) divorce with Cecilia Cheung (張栢芝).
In Forbes’ 2012 rankings of the richest people in the world, Mr. Yeung was one of the Top 40 Richest People in Hong Kong and ranked #1075 on the World’s Richest Billionaire list. Mr. Yeung lived in an iconic 10,000 square feet mansion, which often appeared in magazines. Although it was difficult to imagine Mr. Yeung’s life being different from his current billionaire status, he described his childhood as being pitiful. Outsiders perceived Mr. Yeung as being born into wealth, but he revealed that his parents carried an “empty shell.” Danger appeared to preside in Mr. Yeung’s life at an early age. “Each day, there was no sense of security as loan sharks pestered us. My mother was threatened by loan sharks who held a broken glass bottle at her.”
Cheating Is A Part Of Life
Mr. Yeung’s current wealth was largely self-made; he started his business in the retail watch industry and eventually expanded to financial services, real estate, jewelery, entertainment and films, hospitality, and publishing services. Aside from building diversified conglomerates, the richest billionaires in Hong Kong were often romantically rumored with local actresses and apparently led dangerous lives, in which kidnappers were often tempted by their incredible wealth to commit abductions and demand ransom. Mr. Yeung raced in the fast lane, surrounded by beautiful women and danger in each step of his life.
While married to his ex-wife, Mr. Yeung was a player who kept many girlfriends. Mr. Yeung recounted a hotel rendezvous with a Hong Kong actress in 1973. He refused to reveal her name since she was currently married. Mr. Yeung’s assistant alerted him that his ex-wife was about to barge into the hotel, ready to uncover his cheating habits. Mr. Yeung laughed and recounted how he left the hotel room just in time, while fabricating an elaborate alibi, pretending to be drunk and telling his wife that he was not present at the hotel. Professing to be a “genius” and although passing this incident with flying colors, Mr. Yeung’s marriage with his first wife did not last. “After divorce, I gave her 4 houses, although they were not very expensive properties.” The ex-couple have 4 children together.
Mr. Yeung told his hotel escapade to his friend, actor and director, Philip Chan (陳欣健), who found the incident to be very humorous. Mr. Yeung threatened that he would kill Mr. Chan, should he decide to spin the real-life incident into a movie. “After 3 to 5 months, this bastard truly made my escapade into a movie!” Mr. Yeung’s rendezvous was made into the movie, The Extras, in which Kenneth Tsang (曾江) portrayed Mr. Yeung’s role and Idy Chan (陳玉蓮) portrayed his ex-wife.
Although Mr. Yeung has been married to his second wife for 27 years, he admitted that he still kept girlfriends on the side. “I am a very honest person and would rather be a true petty person, rather than a fake gentleman. I always say that there is no man in this world who does not lust after fortune and women. No woman does not crave money. Currently, I still have girlfriends. Of course there is a need to be careful, but no matter how careful I am, it cannot be fake. My wife is a very smart woman.”
Advised Jackie Chan On Extra-Marital Affair
With his vast influence in the entertainment industry, Mr. Yeung was often the confidant of superstars such as Jackie Chan. In 1999, Jackie had an affair with Hong Kong actress, Elaine Ng (吳綺莉), who became pregnant with Jackie’s daughter. Mr. Yeung advised Jackie to give her vast sums of money, in order to keep the scandal out of the public eye. This was a suggestion that Jackie did not protest against initially. However, Jackie finally decided to let Elaine tell the world and vent, rather than live with the guilty fear of not knowing when the volcano would erupt. At the time, Jackie was most concerned about how his wife, Joan Lin (林鳳嬌), would react after finding out about his cheating. Sharing Mr. Yeung’s philosophy that all men cheated, Jackie described his extra-marital affair as “committing a wrong that every man in the world was guilty of.”
Although it was suggested that money may be a method to keep Elaine quiet, Mr. Yeung professed that Jackie never actually gave her the money. Nevertheless, it was rumored that Jackie was currently paying the living expenses for Elaine and their 12-year-old daughter. However, in a 2010 interview, Elaine denied that she had received any monthly payments.
Entering Prison For 9 Months
In 1981, Mr. Yeung entered prison for 9 months, after he was found guilty in obstructing justice in a personal injury case. At the time, Mr. Yeung’s friend had injured another friend, whom Mr. Yeung sought out to ask him not to press legal charges. Mr. Yeung recounted of his imprisonment, “I did not lose sleep on any night. Unexpectedly, my heart felt very much at peace. One-third of my life had already passed, there was no means of escape. If I had a choice to pick again, I would not change my decision.”
Kidnapping And Running From Death
Mr. Yeung was the victim of a well-publicized kipnapping incident. The abduction was arranged by his company’s former receptionist, whose boyfriend owed loan sharks vast sums of money. At one of his offices in the Central district, Mr. Yeung was forced at gunpoint to get inside the car, but he dared to run from the kidnappers. Gunshots were fired at him, but he ran to police officers on the street and yelled, “Kipnapping!” Mr. Yeung’s kidnapping incident headlined sensational tabloid stories, adding to his larger-than-life image with the public.
Carina Lau’s Tormented Nude Magazine Cover
In 1990, Hong Kong actress, Carina Lau was abducted by four men under a triad boss’ order due to her refusal to film a movie. Although Carina maintained that she was not violated, the men did remove her clothing and took topless photos of her. Twelve years later, Carina’s topless photos appeared on the cover of Mr. Yeung’s publication, East Week Magazine. Her face was pixelated but it was apparent that she was tormented and in great fear After Carina gathered hundreds of protesters, including many famous friends in the entertainment industry, East Week Magazine was forced to shut down in 2002 at a great financial loss to Mr. Yeung. Eventually, the magazine resumed operations in 2003.
As the owner of East Week Magazine, Mr. Yeung was often portrayed as acting mercilessly and unethically in the publication of Carina’s nude photos taken during her abduction. Mr. Yeung maintained that he was unaware of East Week Magazine’s editorial decision to publish Carina’s nude photos, as it was only a small magazine operation in his vast conglomerate empire. From a legal standpoint, Mr. Yeung stated that it was not wrong to publish Carina’s nude photos, whereby the magazine had received the photos in the mail through an anonymous source. However, he noted that from an ethical standpoint, it may not have been the correct decision.
Mr. Yeung stated that he and Carina remained friends with current contact; she was not angry about the publication of her nude photos, understanding that it was an editorial decision made by Mr. Yeung’s employees and not Mr. Yeung himself. In fact, many of Carina’s movies were distributed by Mr. Yeung’s Emperor Entertainment Group, thus it was difficult to hold grudges in a closely interconnected industry.
“I Regard Nicholas Tse As My Own Son”
Mr. Yeung’s favoritism and decision to promote an artist often resulted in superstardom, as it was the case with Joey Yung (容祖兒), Nicholas Tse (謝霆鋒), and Twins (consisting of Gillian Chung 鍾欣桐 and Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍 ). EEG possessed immense marketing muscle, exercising a “push marketing” strategy for their artists in the music and film industries. Mr. Yeung possessed a close affinity for Joey Yung, who shared the same Chinese astrological sign of the Monkey. Mr. Yeung admitted that he had a practice of allowing his trusted feng shui master to offer advice regarding artists EEG decided to promote.
Mr. Yeung and Nicholas Tse’s father, Patrick Tse (謝賢), were friends since 1967. Mr. Yeung watched Nicholas grow up and regarded him as his own son. Nicholas signed with EEG when he was only 16 years old. It was rumored that Patrick Tse owed Mr. Yeung vast sums of money, thus Nicholas had to work and repay his father’s debts before he even finished high school. While Mr. Yeung acknowledged that Patrick had worked for him, he clarified that Patrick did not owe him any financial debts.
Mr. Yeung spoke of his affinity for Nicholas, “It was not until 2011 that he (Nicholas) started thinking about other people’s feelings. In the past, he only thought about himself and acted the way he wished. If he liked something, he had his own way. Although I am the boss, I had to bend to his wishes! Other people asked what we should do about Nicholas Tse. I did not try to control him. Nicholas is like a dark horse. I care for him. I spoil him. Perhaps I owe him.”
Last year, when Nicholas was embroiled in a divorce crisis with ex-wife, Cecilia Cheung, Mr. Yeung flew to Malaysia to visit Nicholas on the film set of The Viral Factor <逆戰>. Mr. Yeung noted that Nicholas had truly matured as an individual, as his divorce decision was made calmly, taking into account the future of his two sons. Nicholas never uttered a bad word about Cecilia at the time.
Mr. Yeung possessed a deep friendship with billionaire, Li Ka Shing (李嘉誠). When former EEG artist, Isabella Leong (梁洛施) fell in love with Li Ka Shing’s son, Richard Li, she wished to pursue her romantic dreams and end her company contract. Negotiations took place for 6 months before the matter finally settled out of court. Money did not get in the way of Mr. Yeung’s friendship with Mr. Li.
As often the case for Hong Kong billionares, it was difficult to sometimes differentiate the facts from the myths surrounding Albert Yeung, which made him appear larger than life. More thrilling details about Mr. Yeung as a man and shrewd businessman, as well as his friendships with fellow Hong Kong billionaires and celebrities, will emerge in his soon-to-be released biography. From his personal anecdotes, Mr. Yeung certainly lived a colorful life, unapologetic for who he was.
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Jayne: Albert Yeung’s interview was immensely interesting. In contrast, Li Ka Shing appears to be much more reticent about his personal life as opposed to the flamboyant Mr. Yeung.