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The world’s biggest spender: Stephen Hung just bought 30 custom-made Rolls-Royce Phantoms for $20 million

Stephen Hung, the man in the wild suit, just bought a fleet or Rolls Royces. He’s pictured with Peter Coker, the joint chairman of Louis XIII Holdings Limited; Stephen Hung, joint chairman of Louis XIII Holdings Limited; Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars; and Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the board of management of BMW and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. (Mark Bramley/Rolls Royce)

The spending habits of China’s billionaires, for business and for pleasure alike, are redefining extravagance: The $330,000 worth of white truffles bought by a casino mogul; the $10 million yacht with mirrored windows; the Upper East Side townhouse bought by Zhang Xin for $26 million; the private island for hunting, stocked with $5 million worth of rifles, wild boar, pheasants and deer and the private museum of Chen Lihua, with 300 antique furniture pieces from the Ming and Qing dynasties, just to name a few. Such purchases are to consumption what extreme fighting is to college wrestling.

But they didn’t make the front page of the Financial Times — as Hong Kong’s Stephen Hung did yesterday, when Rolls-Royce announced he had placed an order for 30 customized Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a $20 million purchase described by the company as the “world’s single largest order of Rolls Royces ever.” The cars were the “extended wheelbase” models, by the way: 20 feet long, more than 6 feet wide, about the size of an affordable hotel room in London, where Chinese billionaires have bought up so much property, except the Phantom goes from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

But these beauties are not for Hung to drive. He already has a white-and-gold Rolls-Royce Phantom — along with his white Ferrari, his bright orange Lamborghini Aventador, and reportedly several Bentleys. The new Phantoms are for the millionaire customers he hopes will frequent the casino resort he’s building in Macau: the Louis XIII, slated to open in 2016, which will feature, among other amenities, a suite that goes for $100,000 per night.

Who will stay at such a price, the South China Morning Post asked — to which he responded by telling the story of a friend, “a European billionaire who took such a fancy to the presidential suite in a prime hotel property on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong harbour that he leased it for four years straight to enjoy the privilege of staying there for about two weeks every year – while stopping anybody else from doing so.”

Hung knows what it is to be rich. His father was a wealthy property investor. Hung went to the University of Southern California to study medicine, moved on to Columbia for his MBA and joined Merrill Lynch as an investment banker before moving into development in Hong Kong and Macau, a gambling mecca he said he hopes never looks like Vegas.

Hung aims to become the king of extreme luxury catering to the far-reaches of wealth — not your duty-free shoppers buying Louis Vuitton, not stuff “affordable to a lot of people,” as he told the South China Morning Post. “The luxury I’m talking about is extreme,” he said.

For marketing purposes — and, it seems, because he likes it, too — Hung has tried to become the living embodiment of the customers he’s seeking for his new enterprise.

He is the world’s biggest spender. “L’extravagant Monsieur Hung,” as Paris Match called him.

Hung, 56, carefully acts and dresses the part when he gives interviews. Examples include: in “vibrant, turquoise patterned trousers and sporting a diamond-covered watch and ring” for Gafencu Men; and shopping for diamonds with the Wall Street Journal “dressed in black pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with bright flowers and geometric shapes — both very tight and very Versace … in a private room” in a Graff Diamonds store in Hong Kong. “Hung then starts admiring an enormous diamond necklace,” the Journal wrote. “His public-relations representative suggests it would look lovely on his wife. ‘No…I’m thinking for myself,’ Hung says, as he puts it around his neck and has the representative snap a photo of him wearing it. ‘It’s never too big,’ Hung says of a diamond pinky ring.”

“Hung’s home proper is again a testament to his penchant for conspicuous luxury,” wrote Gafencu Men. “His apartment is home to an eclectic mix of vibrant, modern works of art, all in stark contrast to his collection of Gothic and Romantic-style Italian furniture. Lights switch colour from green to violet at the simple push of an iPad button while, in the shower off the main bedroom, small jellyfish float in a circuit inside their tank.”

“On the desktop, a throne encrusted with sapphires and surmounted by a crown object,” reported Paris Match, sat a gold lighter manufactured for the launch of Louis XIII that cost a million dollars. “It has never been more expensive to light a cigar.”

He bridled when Paris Match compared him to the tacky — and allegedly insane — German King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who had fairy-tale castles such as Neuschwanstein.

When Hung talks about rich people in history, he speaks of czars, maharajahs and, of course, Louis XIII. “I’ve been to Versailles several times and it has always fascinated me; nothing would have happened without Louis XIII, that’s how important he is; the period embodies luxury, romanticism and style and has stood the test of time,” he told Cote Magazine, which headlined its profile “Eccentricity Meets Luxury.”

At his hotel-casino, he told Cote, “guests will experience a hitherto unseen level of luxury, which doesn’t feel like a Vegas-style holiday resort.” It will be “a completely unique setting, with 200 rooms, and villas of up to 3,000 square meters,” he said, a “place where great luxury, practicality and comfort come together. You don’t want to waste your clients’ time with badly designed details, overly complicated controls and poorly positioned plugs as I have personally experienced in the world’s greatest hotels.”

After it opens in 2016, he may expand. His hope, he told, is to become to luxury “what Google is to knowledge,” he told Paris Match. “I’m not narcissistic enough to compare myself with such a mark, but it’s the same principle.”