Meet the Magnate with Sean Lee-Davies

People

August 5, 2014 | BY Madeleine Ross

What's life like at the top for a Hong Kong tycoon? Renaissance man Sean Lee-Davies learns from the best in his new TV talk show

Photographer, environmentalist, writer and TV personality Sean Lee-Davies sure knows how to draw a good crowd. As host of the upcoming TVB talk show Tycoon Talk, Lee-Davies will be conversing, golfing, flying helicopters, driving electric cars, shooting pool and even working out with some of the biggest names in Hong Kong business. Interviewees include the father of Lan Kwai Fong, Allan Zeman; Gordon Wu of Hopewell Holdings; Crown Worldwide Group’s Jim Thompson; Ken Chu, chairman of Mission Hills; Philip Ma of the Sincere Group; Li & Fung’s Bruce Rockowitz; Michael Tien, founder of the G2000 clothing brand; and Galaxy Entertainment Group’s Francis Lui. The show comes hot on the heels of two award-winning documentaries produced by Lee-Davies: a National Geographic exposé on young people living with cancer and Fill My Tank, an environmental investigation of biofuels. Tycoon Talk premieres on August 7 and episodes will air weekly for two months.

Hong Kong Tatler: What might audiences be surprised to learn about these captains of industry?
Sean Lee-Davies: They all have their own inspiring paths through life, whether it be a rags-to-riches story like Allan Zeman, or taking over a business empire and expanding on it like Francis Lui and Ken Chu. Viewers will be surprised to see how humble and “normal” these people are. They’re obviously smart, but they don’t possess any superhero qualities. What they do possess is an unerring ability to take big and calculated bets, and see their plans through for the long term—and that ties into their optimism. They persevered through the hard times and dedicated their lives to their businesses. They are also products of their time, having lived through Hong Kong and China’s meteoric economic rise. 

HKT: What does it take to become a tycoon?
SLD: There’s no single recipe or formula, but they all share the following traits: they’re very hard-working, disciplined, hugely optimistic and, funnily enough, not really in it for the money. The quest for success or winning is what drives them, rather than pure monetary gain. Luck and being in the right place at the right time also seem to be factors in their success. I don’t think these tycoons would do as well if they were starting out today. Hong Kong has changed and for most, high rent is a major obstacle. But, if you ask them about Hong Kong’s problems, they all remain sanguine about the city’s future, albeit one wedded to Mainland China.

HKT: We hear you challenged Jim Thompson to a push-up contest during the interview—and lost! What happened?
SLD: I knew Jim was a bit of a fitness freak. But for a 74-year-old, he’s incredibly fit and apparently for every birthday party, he does a push-up for each year of his life. So I challenged him to a contest at the end of the interview. Let’s just say I petered out at 30 push-ups, and only just made it to 45 when he had already reached 75.

HKT: So what’s next for you?
SLD: I’m putting on a fine art photography exhibition this December to raise awareness about the endangered wildlife trade. Hong Kong is one of the main conduits for the sale and consumption of illegally traded wildlife. I hope this exhibition travels around Asia so that we can stop the senseless killing of beautiful creatures such as rhino, elephant and tiger for their body parts.

Related Stories