Confessions of billionaire shopaholic Joseph Lau who spends millions on Hermes bags, wines, artworks and pants worth HK$210,000 each


    5th February 2023 – (Hong Kong) Sotheby’s organised an online auction from 30th January to 9th February 2023 featuring the largest single-owner handbag online auction in Asia — The Art of Collecting Handbags: The Visionary Collection of Joseph Lau. Part I of the sale features a selection of 77 Hermes handbags that fugitive billionaire Joseph Lau has curated and assembled over the past two decades. From the extremely rare bronze metallic Kelly, to the 6 diamond Birkins in different color and sizes, limited edition pieces that have made and shaped the history of handbags can all be found in this collection. Part of the sale proceeds from this auction will be donated to charity.

    Among the many bags auctioned by Lau this time, a crocodile Hermes Birkin bag with diamond hardware is estimated to fetch as high as HK$2 million. The market value of the bags offered has a total market value of more than HK$16 million.

    The question is why does Lau collect so many expensive bags for women? Lau loves to buy designer bags since he was young and most of them were used to give to his girlfriends. As a shopaholic, Lau once said that he bought at least tens of thousands of pairs of designer shoes in his life, most of which were used as gifts, and many of them were given to friends to wear. Each pair was worth tens of thousands of dollars. He became addicted to buying and so he started to collect the limited edition bags. Since Lau has bought a lot of luxury items, he has become the top buyer of many luxury brands in the world. These big brands often give him a lot of privileges and he is often accorded the priority to buy some limited editions in advance. Hence, Lau has amassed so many pieces in his private collection. It is estimated that the bags he put up for auction this time is just the tip of the iceberg of his total collection.

    Lau’s ex-wife Teresa Po Wing-ka, ex-girlfriend Yvonne Lui, and his current wife Kimbee Chan are also top collectors of luxury bags. Lau has held many private auctions in recent years, most of which were in collaboration with Sotheby’s. His wife, Kimbee also mentioned before that selling at the auction was not mainly for cashing out, but she felt that Lau seldom appreciated some of the collections, so he took the initiative to let Lau put them up for auction. Part of the proceeds from the auction of 77 luxury bags will also be donated for charity.

    Lau spent HK$210,000 on a pair of pants before and he bought a total pair of 100 pants each time costing around HK$21 million. Despite his lack of fashion sense, each set of his attire may cost hundreds of thousands. He also once revealed that he has spent at least HK$1 billion on red wine in his life. Lau also organised a private wine auction with Sotheby’s in 2020. At that time, he also sold a total of tens of millions of red wine, and the most expensive bottle of red wine was also worth several million Hong Kong dollars.

    In addition, Lau is also an avid art collector. In 2020, the anonymous seller of a painting from David Hockney’s iconic swimming pool series is the Hong Kong real-estate tycoon Joseph Lau, according to a report by Katya Kazakina from Bloomberg News. Hockney’s 1966 work A Splash is one of the most expensive offerings to appear in Sotheby’s contemporary art sale in London on 11th February 2020, where it is estimated to sell for £20 million–£30 million (around US$26.1 million–US$39.2 million). It last came to auction in 2006 at Sotheby’s, when it was acquired by whom the auction house identified as its current owner for £2.9 million.

    71-year-old Joseph Lau Luen-hung is the former chairman of property developer Chinese Estates. His fortune is estimated by Forbes at US$13.3 billion as of September 2021.  In 2014, he became a convicted felon and fugitive in Macao. In March 2014, Lau resigned from his positions as chairman and CEO of Chinese Estates after a Macao court convicted him of bribery and money laundering. His son Lau Ming-wai acceded to the chairmanship of the company. Sue Chan, the elder sister of Lau’s wife Kimbie, became the chief executive of the company Lau founded.

    As of now, there is still no bid received for the Crocodile Birkin bag. Picture credit: Sotheby’s
    ‘A Splash’ (1966) by David Hockney. COURTESY OF SOTHEBY’S