The high-flying and controversial promoter of New Zealand's largest theatrical disaster is travelling overseas and cruising the Hauraki Gulf in his superyacht while creditors, receivers and liquidators pursue him for debts totalling more than $1.7 million.
Jihong Lu first came to public attention in Auckland in the late 1990s with an ambitious multi-billion dollar plan to develop Britomart. The money never arrived and the plan flopped, leading to Lu's bankruptcy in 2000 over a $3m debt.
He re-emerged last year as the driving force behind City of 100 Lovers, a wildly ambitious musical set in Auckland that was performed in residence at SkyCity's theatre.
The show itself, a poorly reviewed grab-bag of Kiwiana cliches designed for the tourist market, including sheep jokes, launched in October with a celebrity-studded red carpet premiere, but immediately tanked and drew comparisons to the Hollywood movie disaster Waterworld.
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The scale of the show - understood to be the country's most expensive theatrical production - was coupled with minute interest from audiences. A December Herald investigation found on most nights the 74-strong cast and crew significantly outnumbered the paying audience.
The show staggered through the holiday period until early February when hosts SkyCity Entertainment are understood to have locked the venue doors and refused to open them to patrons until outstanding bills were paid.
Despite Lu insisting in March he was raising more capital to refloat the production, the doors remained locked and production vehicle Hundred Lovers Productions - unusually for the theatre world, a limited partnership - became besieged by short-changed cast, crew, contractors and investors.
On May 10, the High Court at Auckland appointed the Official Assignee as liquidator. Reports filed on the Limited Partnerships Register state the reason for their appointment was "failure to pay creditors" and the prospect of any dividend was "unlikely". Another creditor, in a bid to safeguard their position, earlier this week appointed receivers.
In recent weeks, related company Templar Tourism Management was also put into liquidation by SkyCity, whose unpaid venue fees are understood to make them a major creditor.
A spokesperson for the Official Assignee last month said 18 creditors owed $1,721,559 by Hundred Lovers Productions had submitted claims, but there appeared to be little to satisfy them.
"Minimal funds have been recovered from the partnership bank account," the spokesperson said.
Lu, described by the official assignee as the principal director, had not co-operated with the liquidator, who was now "formally pursuing" answers.
Lu has not responded to Herald inquiries over the past month.
Several creditors tell a similar story.
In the last communication between Lu and the Herald, the promoter said he was unable to explain himself or his business woes as he was concentrating on his health problems after being diagnosed with late-stage cancer.
Lu's recent Facebook posts have shown him drinking vintage wines and cruising to Kawau and Waiheke Islands aboard his superyacht Templar, interspersed with trips to Taiwan for medical treatments.
A handful of paintings featuring on Lu's Facebook page - including two landscapes by prominent realist painter Peter Siddell - were last week sold by Webb's auction house for a total of more than $200,000.