The morning meeting is drawing to a close on the top floor of S-Meg Tower in the heart of Asia’s thrusting international financial hub, and the Big Boss is in a bad mood. He is, I know, jealous that fellow tycoons at Henderson, Chinese Estates and Sung Hung Kai are getting so much of the limelight as a result of the magnificence of their sperm and libidos.
Old man Lee Shau-kee displays his youthful vigour not at one remove, via his son, but at two, courtesy of a mystery PhD starlet egg donor and an unknown woman who hires her womb out to gestate boys in quantity to order. How can you not envy an 82-year-old that? Then there’s Joseph Lau, with his burly semi-peasant demeanour dragging lithe beauties towards him like some earthy Edwardian lady-magnet out of DH Lawrence. And what about Walter Kwok, dismissing his mother’s offer of a HK$20 billion payoff to exile himself from the family business after spurning his wife for the older woman he had a crush on in his more youthful days?
The best the Chairman and CEO of S-Meg Holdings ever managed was when a hotel laundry worker spied his Winnie the Pooh pajamas and sold the scoop to Next magazine paparazzi who traced him to the room of his overweight Mainland mistress. Despite near-death back home at the hands of a precious Ming vase flung down the stairs by his irate wife, it just wasn’t the same. But then, these property guys are in a different league.
As his dynamic senior management team start to leave, the Big Boss hurls a small folder of papers down one side of the ‘good feng-shui’, triangular, mahogany table in the conference room, dangerously nudging the ceramic three-legged toad from its usual north-facing, wealth-generating position. It slides to a halt near me.
He is referring to Ms Kan the Deputy Assistant HR Manager, who was tricked into commissioning a carbon emissions audit exercise from some trendy, enthusiastic and generally irritating enviro-green-consulting group. I flick through it and fail to conceal my surprise.
“Wow. This,” I tell the great man, “goes beyond damaging the family image by leaving your wife for true love. It goes beyond screwing and impregnating Canto-bims by the pair. It even, somehow, goes beyond ordering test-tubes full of designer Franken-babies for your unmarried son. This is staggering.”
The malevolence has faded from his face, and he looks like a little boy about to get a present.
I show him the charts and explain. “Our corporate operations – in other words, offices – produce a carbon footprint about the size of S-Meg Tower. As you would expect. But your fleet of cars create four times as much greenhouse gases than that. Your luxury yacht churns out even more than all the vehicles. And, amazing but true, all that first-class air travel you take everywhere outweighs all the rest put together. Our total carbon footprint ends up being about the size of…”
“Lantau?” he suggests hopefully.
“No – Taiwan!”
He sits back in delight, as big a disgrace as the other tycoons, and glows with pride.