The Other Women

Dec 15, 2008
*Special to asia!
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Angela Leong and Mona Fong share similar pasts and futures.

One is the second wife of a former movie king, Run Run Shaw. The other is the fourth wife of a former casino king, Stanley Ho. The husbands, at 100 and 86 respectively, are long past their prime. The time has come for the wives to show their stuff.

For nearly 20 years since she moved from a humble dwelling in China to a luxurious mansion in Hong Kong, Angela Leong On-kei, popularly known as "Say-Tai" or "Fourth Wife", seldom, if ever crosses the path of Mona Fong, the power behind Run Run Shaw and his Shaw Brothers entertainment and property empire.

But now circumstances and self-interest have thrown the two together. Angela, at the urging of her good friend Charles Chan Kwok-keung, has doled out HK$140 million for 20% of TVB Pay Vision, a loss-making pay-TV company.

She bought it from the listed Television Broadcast, the larger and much more profitable of Hong Kong’s two free-to-air TV stations. TVB is the crown jewel of the Shaw group’s assets in Hong Kong.

After the sale TVB will own 29% of TVB Pay Vision, while Chan’s See Corporation will continue to hold 51%.

While Leong tries to downplay her investment – “I have no say in the running of TVB Pay Vision, I just like the business” – it is clear that this is merely her first step into the media business. Her ultimate aim is likely to be TVB.

Leong is ambitious. Her ambition has seen her move from being a croupier in Ho’s casino to become his fourth, last and reportedly favourite wife. In Macau, her nickname is "the thousand-handed Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy)", an apt description of how she manages to insinuate herself into every aspect of Ho’s sprawling gaming, property and transport empire.

Having billions (Ho is said to be worth US$7 billion and a sizeable chunk of that has gone to Leong) is not enough for the 46-year-old. Recently she was elected into Macau’s top lawmaking body. She is said to be aiming for a similar position in Hong Kong. Having access (or control) of TVB would go a long way in furthering her political ambitions.

This would depend on how well she works with Mona Fong, another formidable character. Fong, 73, started life as a singer and entertainer. She was the mistress of Run Run for decades and running his business in Hong Kong all the while before she married him after the demise of his first wife. The Shaw empire was built by Run Run and his elder (and late) brother, Runme. Each of them has two sons. They are in Singapore, where Shaw Brothers owns extensive property and is a big player in the cinema industry. None of the Shaws have come to Hong Kong, Mona Fong’s territory. After Run Run is gone, there is little doubt the Hong Kong side of Shaw would be run by Mona Fong.

TVB is watched by most Hongkongers. It used to be a mere money-making machine, drawing in advertisement after advertisement. But in the decade since Hong Kong returned to China’s fold – coincidentally it has also been a decade since Stanley Ho openly acknowledged he had a fourth wife, and a couple of kids with her – TVB has also become a key platform for the many political parties in Hong Kong. The person, or persons, who control the network will enjoy all the privileges and access (to Beijing, as well as local government) usually reserved for media barons.
The question now remains whether Mona Fong will fill this position, or whether she will share it with Angela Leong.

lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


Contact Han Shih