|Flamboyant businessman John Hung created
ripples when he decided to quit Hong Kong and go fishing in New Zealand.
Now, the 63-year-old former managing
director of Wheelock is creating a few more ripples - by playing a leading
role with Telecom Plus.
After just more than a month in
self-imposed retirement in New Zealand and England, the doyen of the
corporate world is back and ready to go.
Hung could only handle so much fishing,
rugby watching and wine drinking in New Zealand, and his thoughts of
retiring to London disappeared when he experienced the bone-chilling
Hung returned to Hong Kong and quickly
realised one thing.
``You can't retire in Hong Kong. You
have to work, the whole place is about work. It is not about money, money
is part of it, but it is about work, because if you live in Hong Kong
where everybody works and you don't, you fall out of circulation very fast
and you'll lose all your friends,'' Hung told the Hong Kong iMail.
``So my wife and I accepted that I
probably would have to do work of some sort, the difference is now I
refuse to do anything that I don't enjoy.''
That enjoyment now comes from working
his magic with Telecom Plus Holdings.
Before he made the decision to join the
company he had plenty of options, including the tranquillity of New
Zealand. But when he met Telecom Plus chairman Zou Yishang out of the
blue, thoughts of landing Kiwi trout in crystal clear waters were
forgotten - he was moving back into the fast lane.
``The first thing that appealed to me
was that the man knew what he was doing.
``He's smart and has a tremendous
deal-making ability,'' Hung said of his new boss.
Zou started the transformation of the
Chung Tai Group to Telecom Plus Holdings in January 2000.
He personally led the corporate
restructuring and financial re-engineering to turn a company in distress
with about HK$500 million in net liabilities around. It made a profit of
about HK$10 million for the six months to the end of September.
The advisory contract ends late next
month, but Hung is likely to stay on beyond that as he sees good prospects
with the company.
``I feel very much part of this company
and I have a role to play,'' he said.
After 35 years with Wheelock, Hung now
leads the corporate office of Telecom Plus and manages investor relations.
``If I decide to stay on, my role will
not be just an adviser. I will probably run the Hong Kong office, leaving
more time for Zou to build up the China business,'' he said.
What Hung made clear was that he now
had the luxury of only working in a post that he enjoyed, and he would
continue to do it as long as he did enjoy it.
He rejected many positions before
``I could have taken up a number of
pretty high positions in Hong Kong, working as a senior director or senior
adviser in a variety of big companies,'' he said. But he could afford to
``I wanted to be fairly independent. I
would rather do a number of things that interest me than just one, and put
my heart and soul into them.''
After working so long in a frenzied
corporate environment, Hung now concedes he just can't sit around for too
long doing nothing.
``I love New Zealand. It is a beautiful
place. I love my home there. I wish I could spend more time there, but
having tried that I just can't go fishing all day, drinking wine, watching
horse racing, watching rugby and all that.
``Sometimes you need to have something
more to maintain your attention. Living there I found it difficult as I
didn't have something to keep me busy all the time. I got bored quickly.''
He hadn't been long in New Zealand
before he was back working on deals.
``I established some connections and
maybe in a few years I will end up having enough work there, enough
friends and an established network.''
In the SAR these essentials are already
taken care of.
``In Hong Kong there is nobody that I
can't get to,'' he said. ``My strength is networking and connections. I
have got friends here all over.''
During his two-week stint in New
Zealand he worked on the idea of becoming a consultant for Kiwi companies
trying to find a way into the mainland market through Hong Kong.
`I'm sure I left them with certain
ideas. In time, anyone I met who wants to come to Hong Kong and access
China will have me on file,'' he said.
``But it's not that straightforward for
New Zealanders. They probably have to go though a board to make a policy
decision and only then they might do it, so during the two weeks I was
there I also took time to enjoy myself.''
Hung also stayed for two weeks in
London, but this time the bone-chilling weather prompted his return.
If Hung did not realise it before, his
return to Hong Kong made it very obvious - he had contacts that others
could only dream of.
``They all want my network,'' he said.
``I thought I was a man of many parts, but then when you retire you go out
and you start to see how people react to you and then you realise that is
not necessarily how you look at yourself.''
Of course, if the networking eventually
becomes tedious he can always go back to working a landing net for Kiwi
``Most people considered me a pretty
well-rounded person, and there are views they all had in common. They
valued my network, my bilingualism and my personality more than anything
else,'' he said. ``That's how they see my value - the fact that I can
write very well and have a brain doesn't seem so important. Of course,
these are things that people might take for granted, but I thought I was a
good administrator. There are many things that I'm reasonably good at, but
it is clear that a lot of people appreciate only my network and my family
background.'' - 2002
May 10 iMail.com