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Hong Kong tycoon says offer to suitors of lesbian daughter is off the table

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
January 30, 2014 -- Updated 2333 GMT (0733 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cecil Chao says the money he offered "stays in my pocket"
  • In 2012, he offered a huge dowry to any man who married her
  • She urged him this week to treat her longtime female partner as a normal "human being"
  • But he says he has "no intention of mixing my life with her life"

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The flamboyant Hong Kong tycoon who offered millions of dollars to any man who could win the heart of his lesbian daughter says the proposal is now off the table.

But he's still refusing to welcome her long-term female partner into his family.

Cecil Chao, a wealthy real estate developer, made headlines around the world in 2012 when he offered 500 million Hong Kong dollars (roughly $65 million) to any man who succeeded in marrying his daughter.

'Dear Daddy', men aren't for me
$64M to marry my gay daughter

Recent reports that he was willing to double the offer put his family back in the headlines. Gigi Chao, 34, responded by writing him an open letter, published in local newspapers this week, asking him to come to terms with her sexuality.

In the letter, she told him that she was happy in her relationship and urged him to treat her partner, Sean Eav, as "a normal, dignified human being."

"If Gigi's said that this is what she chooses, then it's all over," Cecil Chao said Thursday an interview with CNN's Monita Rajpal. He said the huge sum he had offered to potential suitors "stays in my pocket."

Daughter asks him to accept who she is

Refusal to welcome partner

But the 77-year-old tycoon, who has three children but has never married, is unable to embrace his daughter's love life.

"I can't say I am happy with her choice," he said. "If this is her choice then it's for her."

And he said he wouldn't be welcoming Eav, 46, into his family, despite his daughter's plea.

"I have no intention of mixing my life with her life," Cecil Chao said. "But if this is what she wants, then I respect her choice."

His comments follow Gigi Chao's poignant letter, explaining the situation to him.

"As your daughter, I would want nothing more than to make you happy," she writes. "But in terms of relationships, your expectations of me and the reality of who I am, are not coherent."

'Her private life is hers'

Cecil Chao originally proposed the multimillion dollar dowry in 2012 after it emerged that his daughter and Eav had their relationship blessed in a church ceremony in Paris.

He said Thursday that his daughter had never told him in person that she was a lesbian.

"I saw it in the paper," he told CNN's Rajpal, even though they work together at his company.

"We see each other every day," he said. "We have many occasions to be together, but her private life is hers."

The successful businessman earned a reputation in Hong Kong for appearing on the pages of local newspapers and magazines in the arms of beautiful women. He once reportedly bragged of having had 10,000 girlfriends.

Men are 'just not for me'

In her letter, Gigi Chao tells her father that she "will always forgive you for thinking the way you do, because I know you think you are acting in my best interests."

And she says she takes responsibility for some of her father's misplaced expectations.

When he first announced the colossal dowry in 2012, she said at the time she found it "quite entertaining."

But this week she appeared to set the record straight.

"I'm sorry to mislead you to think I was only in a lesbian relationship because there was a shortage of good, suitable men in Hong Kong," she writes. "There are plenty of good men, they are just not for me."

Decision not final

Cecil Chao said Thursday that he offered the money any man who could wed his daughter because he wanted "to provide the best choice for Gigi" for her future life.

She says in her letter that she felt "an indescribable discomfort" in the presence of boyfriends she had in the past. But with 46-year-old Eav, she says she is "comfortable and satisfied with my life and completely at ease with her."

In the interview Thursday, Cecil Chao repeatedly said that the big financial offer to any man who could win his daughter's hand in marriage was finished.

"I hope you or the other press are not going to talk about it anymore," he told Rajpal.

But he also suggested that he wasn't letting go of the idea entirely, saying that the offer was over "for the time being."

When asked what he meant by that, he said, "Until she changes her mind."

CNN's Michala Sabnani and journalist Alisha Haridasani contributed to this report.

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