Some of Hong Kong's most luxurious and expensive homes are located around the Shek 0 Country Club. These 20 or so large detached houses with private gardens and sea views cost tens of millions of dollars.

Their owners include the chairman of Wheelock and Company, Peter Woo Kwong-ching, and Sino Land boss Robert Ng Chee-siong.

Robert Ng Chee-Siong son of Singaporean tycoon Ng Teng-fong, is the chairman of the Sino Group since 1991 and also chairman of TST Properties. The aggressive developer has been actively engaged in the Hong Kong property market during the last three decades, often making headlines for paying record sums at government land auctions. In addition, Robert Ng is an independent non-executive director of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels and a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The Ng family is Singapore's biggest landlord, second to the government. In 2009, Forbes listed Ng Teng-fong, Robert's father, as Singapore's wealthiest person, and ranked him 87 worldwide, with an estimated fortune of US$5.5 billion.

Robert Ng is married to Yeoh Saw-kheng, and the couple has four children, the eldest of which is Daryl Ng Win-kong, an executive director of Sino Group. The couple also has three daughters, Nikki Ng, Jeanne Ng and Christine Ng. The entire Ng family are avid racehorse owners.

The house is held under Sino Group, of which Robert Ng is chairman. The stunning two-storey mansion, nicknamed The Rock, is located in the ultra exclusive district of Shek O. Perched on the edge of a cliff, adjacent to the Shek O Country Club, it boasts unparalleled sea views, along with a private swimming pool.  

Percy  Weatherall, or Edward Percy Keswick Weatherall, was the managing director of Jardine Matheson Group from 2000 to 2006. (He was succeeded by Anthony Nightingale.) The Jardine group comprises Jardine Pacific, Dairy Farm, Hongkong Land, and Mandarin Oriental, among other companies.

Weatherall is the elder son of Captain Anthony Weatherall and Sophy Keswick, making him part of the amazing Keswick family dynasty.   Weatherall joined the family business in 1976 and worked in a number of senior executive positions in Hong Kong, USA, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Korea and the Philippines. He is married to Clara, and the couple has four children. The family now spends the majority of their time in South West Scotland.

This sprawling estate is located in Hong Kong south's prestigious Shek O district. The beautiful two-storey home features extensive grounds, which boasts its own private swimming pool, tennis court, and amazing sea views. The house is adjacent to that of Richard Li's, the youngest son of Li Ka-shing.   - 2010 May   ASIA TATLER

But how someone gets to live in this exclusive area is a mystery. Wealth is not the sole requirement as new residents need to be approved by private firm Shek O Development, which owns the country club with its golf course and leases out all the nearby plots on which the exclusive houses are built.

Little is known about how Shek O Development decides whether to accept or reject new residents but the committee of the country club is thought to be closely involved.

A managing director of  a local estate agent, claimed some of his clients were prevented from buying one of the luxury houses by Shek O Development despite being able to afford the properties. 

"It is not just money that will work - you need to have good connections, you need to have good social status and also you need to have an extremely good reputation in high society".    Requests for interviews with Shek O Development's directors and shareholders were all turned down.

Director Tim Freshwater wrote in an e-mail: "Shek O Development Company is, as you know, a private company and the questions you raise are largely confidential matters. I am afraid, therefore, that I will not be able to answer these or any questions regarding the company or the [country] club." Mr Freshwater is also head of Asian corporate finance at Goldman Sachs.

Shek O Development's directors and shareholders are among the most powerful business figures in Hong Kong. Directors include HSBC Asia-Pacific chairman David Eldon and Cathay Pacific chief executive David Turnbull. The largest shareholder is Jardine Matheson managing director Percy Weatherall. The country club was formed by an association of British hongs, according to Mr Koh.

"The majority was really controlled by Jardine Matheson," he said. In 1934, Shek O Development leased the 10.48 hectares of land on which the luxury properties are built from the colonial government for 75 years starting from 1924. The lease was renewed for another 75 years in 1999. The plots on which the exclusive houses were built were then sub-leased with numerous restrictions.

The property cannot be sold without written permission of Shek O Development, according to the firm's standard sub-leasing contract, which is the same as the one used 70 years ago. The houses on the property must be of a "European type". No reconstruction or alterations can be carried out without Shek O Development's permission.

"Over the years they have been sticking very strictly to the rules. There are very few houses that have successfully applied for extensions of the house areas".

Even the colour of the house is not just the choice of the residents. "You are not allowed to change the colours on your external walls or the roof unless you have the permission of the committee of the [country] club," said Mr Koh.

The contracts also stipulate that residents cannot become a scavenger, blacksmith, tavern-keeper, soap-maker, sugar baker, butcher or melter of tallow among other occupations without the express permission of Shek O Development.

All these restrictions may help preserve the splendour of the area but they can also depress the value of the properties.

One owner of a large Shek O residence noted the country club committee's role in approving would-be buyers put a cap on values compared with other salubrious Hong Kong neighbourhoods.

While developers have bulldozed old colonial villas on The Peak and Deepwater Bay to make way for multiple house and condominium projects, the committee's control over new buildings and their right to veto potential property buyers has depressed prices.

"Shek O property really should not be seen as an investment like other areas of Hong Kong," the owner said.

Despite all the safeguards and restrictions to preserve the good name of the area, some residents have received negative press coverage. Akai Holdings chairman James Ting used to live at 20 Shek O.

Mr Ting was arrested in May in connection with investigations into the collapse of his flagship company Akai Holdings- by Stephen Seawright     South China Morning Post     18 Feb 2004

Luxury house prices around the Shek O Country Club have risen and slumped along with the rest of the property market over the past decade.

One unfortunate buyer was Cheong Pin-chuan, who paid $201 million for a Shek O house in the summer of 1997 - the peak of Hong Kong's property boom. Three years later the house was sold for $105 million.

However, other Shek O property buyers have not fared so badly. In 2000 Akai Holdings chairman James Ting sold his property to Chow Yei-ching, the boss of construction and engineering firm Chevalier, for $100 million.

Mr Ting had bought the property in 1993 for $37.5 million.

Lui Che-woo, chairman of property and construction firm K.Wah International Holdings, acquired his Shek O property for $27 million in 1993.

Jardine Matheson's group strategy director Brian Keelan, who joined the hong from UBS Warburg in London in 2001, is renting one of Shek O's houses for $260,000 a month under a five-year sub-lease which runs until the end of 2006.

Apart from exclusive single houses in Shek O Road, the Shek O property market remains virtually untouched. On average, less than one transaction has been made each year since 1995 and most are in Shek O Headland.

According to property agencies, some of the prominent houses in Shek O Headland are owned by local wealthy families. "While only foreign people were admitted into the country club before the 1970s, wealthy local families acquired houses or sites in Shek O Headland," said Anna Chan, a senior manager of Ricacorp Properties.

Ian Lim Wai-chuen of Centaline Property Agency said agents were not eager to do business in Shek O due to its remoteness and lack of demand and supply.

"Most customers are not familiar with the district. Flat seekers would look at districts like Repulse Bay, where more celebrities reside," Mr Li said.

While agents are not sure about a customer's interest, they are less willing to step into a geographically remote market with a lack of clear price indication."

He said there were only a couple of properties in Shek O on sale at the moment.

The average price for a house with a sea view is about $5,000 per square foot in Shek O Headland, according to Mr Lim.

Sizes varied in Shek O Headland from less than 2,000 sq ft houses and apartments to 4,000 sq ft, Mr Lim said.   - by Stephen Seawright and Ernest Kong      South China Morning Post

A rare property has come on to the luxury residential market in the form of a detached house, owned by Akai Holdings chairman James Ting, in an exclusive Shek O development.

The two-storey house at 20 Shek O Road is part of a 23-house luxury project under the Shek O Development, which represents a small group of prestigious owners.

The tender of 20 Shek O Road, closed on July 13, 2000

This followed the tender of the house at 19 Shek O Road early this month. The 19 Shek O Road property is owned by Wing Foong Group.

With a site area of 21,700 square feet and existing house area of 5,268 sq ft, 20 Shek O Road comprises a two-storey detached house and an extensive garden.

Mr Ting bought the house in late 1993 for HK$37.5 million, representing a unit price of HK$7,100 per sq ft, based on the existing house area.

The seller was Bill Wyllie, dubbed "company doctor" for his speciality in rescuing financially troubled companies.

Owners in the prestigious low-density housing project under the Shek O Development include Peter Woo of  Wheelock & Co, Robert Ng of Sino Land,  Jardines, the Hui family of Central Development and industrialist and politician Henry Tang.

HSBC Holdings also owns a house there.

The privilege of living there is reflected in the stringent requirement that money is not a sufficient enough condition to buy a house. Acquisitions of the Shek O houses at the development need to be approved by the club governing management of the houses, which is organised by existing owners.

The senior director of FPDSavills, said the buyer of 20 Shek O Road would have the opportunity of membership of the Shek O Country Club and use of its golf facilities.

The buyer would also enjoy living in an elite neighbourhood with spectacular sea views and a peaceful environment, he said.

In the past six months, the single-house market had shown a high level of activity with many outstanding transactions, which reflected the strength of the high-end market and strong demand for quality houses. In Shek O, despite the distance from Central, it appeared there was a growing trend in the market for more people who appreciate this unique lifestyle and would be prepared to move to the area. -    South China Morning Post     June 21, 2000

Editors note:  Andrea Eng acquired a waterfront property in Shek-O on behalf of an undisclosed tycoon and that became her signature transaction in the Hong Kong market.   She was guided by a multi-generation 'seriously rich' princeling to the property.  His family 'lives in the area'.  Lucky her!


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