Matriarch displaces son in Kwok family fight

Matriarch displaces son in Kwok family fight

 

She is taking over as chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties

 

By JANE MOIR

IN HONG KONG

 

THE 79-year-old mother of the battling Kwok brothers has been appointed chair of Sun Hung Kai Properties, replacing her eldest son following a family dispute over control.

 

The board announced that Kwong Siu-hing would replace Walter Kwok Ping-sheung as chairman. This follows a failed legal bid by Mr Kwok to prevent his ouster and marks the end of an 18-year stint as chairman.

 

A court this week declined to grant an injunction preventing the board from exercising its right to strip Mr Kwok of his position. It revealed details of a bitter feud, which is also reflected in defamation proceedings launched by the elder brother against his siblings.

 

Brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen are both vice-chairmen and managing directors of the company. During the injunction proceedings, Mr Walter Kwok accused the pair of breaching the terms of his resignation from the board.

 

Mr Walter Kwok took sudden leave of absence from the company in February. According to a judgment on the injunction proceedings, it was agreed that according to a letter and an agreement he would return after three months if medical evidence on his mental health was satisfactory.

 

Judge Susan Kwan stressed: ‘I am not concerned today with whether Walter is suffering from any kind of mental illness, and I express no views on this. Nor is it for me to say whether Walter is a fit and proper person to remain as chairman and CEO of the company. This is a matter for the board of the company to decide.’

 

The judge said that there was nothing in the agreement to stop the company from using its powers to remove Mr Walter Kwok as chairman. ‘All the directors who have taken part in this application have stated firmly and clearly they are fully aware of their duties and powers as directors of the company and will exercise their powers at board meetings in the best interest of the company. I see no reason why I should question their good faith and assume they would not carry out their duties conscientiously, ‘ she ruled.

 

Cracks first began appearing in the family when a friendship between Mr Walter Kwok and a woman became the source of discontent among family members over her role in the company and the advice that she was giving the elder sibling.

 

The ongoing saga and airing of the Kwoks’ personal lives in public have put an otherwise modest family on the front page of every tabloid in the city. The family is well known for its conservative public profile and values, as well as its good standing in the community.

 

Mr Walter Kwok took over as Sun Hung Kai group chairman in November 1990 following the death of his father, Kwok Tak-seng. Today, the Kwok brothers rank third on Forbes’ list of the richest people in Greater China, with an estimated net worth of US$14 billion.

 

It had previously been reported that the brothers were unhappy that although daily operations are mainly overseen by the younger siblings, Mr Walter Kwok had been taking an aggressive stance over business matters recently.

 

The family friend of Mr Walter Kwok had never been employed by the company, but started to show ambition in certain parts of Sun Hung Kai’s business.

 

According to sources, this involved a desire to be put in charge of the company’s China operations.

 

The tycoon was reportedly one of several billionaires kidnapped by notorious gangster Cheung Tze-keung, otherwise known as ‘Big Spender’, in 1997. These reports have never been confirmed by the family.

 

Source: Business Times

 

 

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