Sun Hung Kai Properties was the largest (by market value) public real estate company in the world

Tycoon Walter Kwok

Dealings with Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) always leave shrewd observers with the knowledge that Kwok family matriarch Kwong Siu-hing is the power behind the throne.   That's because she is wife of the founder of SHKP founder Kwok Tak-Sing.   

That power was not bestowed upon her by virtue of her controlling stake: the stake was incidental.

The sway she held over top executives came not just because she put them there but because she knew what the best deals were and where the empire could expand next.

Long before she was forced by her son Walter Kwok Ping-sheung's affair into consenting to take her place at the throne that was always hers, no important deal went through without her consent, no broad direction set without her input.   - 2008 July 23    THE STANDARD


The combined $24 billion wealth of the Kwok brothers ranked them second on the 2007 list of Hong Kong's richest people, Forbes magazine reported in January.

Family relationships always take priority as a matter of Face as well as  Confucian filial relationship and values as events with the Kwok brothers of Sun Hung Kai properties demonstrate.

The Chairman of the Asia's top public real estate company (by market value) has been 'extracted' by Chinese Matriarch even at later stages in life.  

Ladies,  does this sound familiar pattern with other Chinese dynastic rich men?     Some may recall that Walter Kwok was kidnapped in the 90's and experienced the trauma of being kept in a box for several days while payment was negotiated with kidnappers.   In the busy-ness of Hong Kong we sometimes forget compassion.     Life in Hong Kong is like living in a fish bowl.

Chinese mother will always be the matriarch in any dynastic family as recent events demonstrate!  And 'Defending Territory' amongst the siblings of the Dynastic Rich can't be all that fun?!    Being rich isn't all that people think ...  - HELLO TAI TAI

The mom and the monster

The matriarch of one of Hong Kong's richest corporate dynasties sat down with the city's most notorious crime bosses and negotiated the payment of a HK$600 million ransom for the release of her eldest son, The Standard has learned.

As a bitter family feud over control of giant developer Sun Hung Kai Properties continues, extraordinary details have emerged about how the man at the center of the current corporate bust-up Walter Kwok Ping-sheung came to be released by gangster Cheung Tze-keung otherwise known as "Big Spender."

Ever since his kidnap in September 1997 rumors have persisted that Walter's younger brothers, Thomas and Raymond, were reluctant to pay the ransom.

But suggestions that a simmering row over the ransom payment is behind today's corporate fall- out which has seen Walter Kwok ousted from the chairmanship of Sun Hung Kai to be replaced by his 79-year-old mother will be dampened by the latest revelations.

Family insiders say rumors about reluctance to pay the ransom "hurt the family."

Gangster Cheung was caught and executed by firing squad in the mainland in 1998.

But this was only after he got away with the biggest ransom paid in Hong Kong criminal history.

Now, we can reveal how Kwok matriarch Kwong Siu-hing held a secret meeting with "Big Spender" in a luxury Central apartment as her eldest son languished, half-naked, in a wooden container box in a village house in the New Territories.

Walter Kwok was freed on October 5, 1997, after being held captive for seven days.

The family learned about Kwok's disappearance when younger brother Thomas Kwok Ping- kwong received a phone call on the night of September 29.

The caller identified himself as Cheung Tze-keung and said he had kidnapped Walter Kwok. Shellshocked Thomas Kwok called Walter's wife, Wendy Li Tin-wing, to check - and their worst fears were realized.

They followed Cheung's instructions and drove to Repulse Bay where they found Walter's empty car.

He had been taken hostage on his way home and was being held inside a village house in Ma On Kong, next to Tai Lam Tunnel in the New Territories.

At 10pm, Thomas Kwok received another call from Cheung, who instructed the family to meet him inside Dynasty Court on Old Peak Road, a property owned by SHKP.

Thomas Kwok, Wendy Li and a senior member of staff from SHKP met with Cheung, who appeared totally confident that his plan would work out.

The gangster showed them his identification card and proudly identified himself, according to the source.

Despite repeated requests from the family about the ransom, Cheung did not come up with a figure.

The crime boss beat around the bush the whole night and instructed the family to buy him supper. Wendy Li and the senior staffer were sent to a convenience store to get Cheung snacks and cup noodles.

This first meeting dragged on for hours until Cheung suddenly stood up and left the apartment without the parties coming to any deal.

Before he left he took a mobile phone belonging to the SHKP staffer.

At this point Thomas Kwok called his younger brother, Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, who was in Beijing. Raymond Kwok rushed back to Hong Kong to join the rescue effort.

The following morning, the crime boss called Thomas Kwok again and asked for US$10 million (HK$78 million) as a first payment, and then later demanding a further HK$50 million. He then changed his mind, saying he no longer wanted any money.

After Raymond Kwok returned to the city, the family told their elderly mother, Kwong Siu-hing.

As the days dragged on, Cheung taunted the family with varying demands, asking for cash, then even shares in SHKP, the source said.

In an attempt to reach a deal the family did a global search of previous ransoms and found that the biggest ransom paid was around HK$200 million. Based on this, they decided to offer triple the amount.

The elderly Kwong led Wendy Li and Raymond Kwok to meet Cheung at 6.30pm on October 2, 1997.

"Mrs Kwok offered HK$500 million and eventually a deal was reached to pay HK$600 million," the source said.

The family called a senior contact at the Hang Seng Bank to arrange the cash - a total of 600,000 HK$1,000 banknotes, which were packed inside 20 large red, white and blue carrier bags and driven to a quiet lane in Central in two Mercedes saloon cars, as instructed by Cheung. The crime boss and an accomplice arrived and drove away in the two Mercedes carrying the cash.

The family waited anxiously overnight until Kwong finally received a call from Walter Kwok the following day to say he was free.

Kwong arranged for her son to be picked up in the New Territories.

Today's family battle was triggered when Walter Kwok planned to give his friend Ida Tong Kam-hing a seat on the board in the company. Tong, who is five years his senior, is said to have started a close relationship with Walter Kwok after the kidnapping incident.

Cheung was Hong Kong's most wanted man for a number of years.

In October 1998 he stood trial in Guangzhou, facing a series of charges relating to "cross-boundary crime" including illegal possession, transporting and smuggling explosives and firearms, robbery and kidnapping. On December 16, 1998, he was convicted and executed in Guangzhou by a firing squad.   - 2008 July 16   THE STANDARD

Rift knocks another chip off HK credibility

A fierce family feud that has split the boardroom of Hong Kong's biggest property developer, Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd (SHKP), climaxed on Tuesday with the ousting of chairman and chief executive Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, 57, and his replacement by his mother, Kwok Kwong Siu-hing.

The battle was triggered when Walter reportedly tried to bring his long-time lover onto the board of SHKP, whose 88-story International Finance Center dominates the harbor as the city's
tallest building and is at the core of Hong Kong's business life. The developer's 118-story ICC Tower will be the world's third-tallest building on completion in 2010.

The conflict, drawn out over several months, has provided plenty of entertainment and grist for the tabloid gossip mill. The US$24 billion combined wealth of the Kwok brothers, according to Forbes magazine, makes them second on the 2007 Forbes list of Hong Kong's richest people, behind only Li Ka-shing, chairman of the multinational conglomerate Cheung Kong Holdings and the world's richest man of Chinese descent.

It has also caused concern and embarrassment in a business community whose corporate ethics are already under attack.

Walter's younger brothers, Thomas and Raymond, vice chairmen of the company, were on the opposite side of the corporate fight to oust Walter, eventually backed by their mother, SHKP's largest shareholder. The younger Kwoks won a key victory against their brother on Monday, when Walter lost his appeal against a ruling in Hong Kong's High Court allowing a SHKP board vote to remove him as chairman. That set the stage for a board meeting on Tuesday, at which Walter was ousted and in a humiliating comedown, appointed as a non-executive director. According to a SHKP statement in Chinese, Kwok's 79-year-old mother will be appointed, with immediate effect, as chairman and non-executive director "until shareholders' annual general meeting in December".
On May 15, the High Court granted the eldest Kwok brother an interim injunction blocking this week's decisive meeting, but that injunction was lifted last Friday, prompting the doomed appeal.

Two days prior to Friday's ruling, Walter also filed a defamation suit against his brothers for allegations he says they made against him in three letters addressed to their mother and to SHKP directors. According to the suit, the letters suggested that the chairman suffers from bipolar affective disorder (popularly known as manic depression) and is a liar who is unfit for his position. Walter has demanded "a full and unequivocal public retraction" from his brothers, claiming that his reputation has been seriously impaired and that he has "suffered grave distress, anguish and embarrassment". He remains an executive director on a number of other boards of listed companies and is a standing committee member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The eldest brother has also filed a report with the Hong Kong police against US-based psychiatrist Jose Maldonado, who reportedly diagnosed him as bipolar, for allegedly practicing medicine in Hong Kong without a license and for prescribing unlicensed medicine to him. The tycoon says that Maldonado's false diagnosis was cited in his brothers' letters to SHKP directors declaring him unfit for his duties.

Walter had returned to his role as SHKP chairman this month following a three-month leave of absence for what the company called "personal reasons". According to news reports, however, this was a forced leave prompted by his relationship with Ida Tong Kam-hing, a Hong Kong lawyer five years his senior whom the tycoon has known for more than 30 years, pre-dating his marriage to his wife, Wendy.

The Standard newspaper went so far as to compare the Kwok-Tong relationship to that of Britain's Prince Charles with his present wife Camilla Parker-Bowles, which also predated his marriage to the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

Quoting anonymous sources, the paper reported that, as a young man, the tycoon broke off his relationship with Tong because his father, Kwok Tak-seng, who co-founded SHKP in 1969 and served as chairman at the time of his death in 1990, disapproved of her. The relationship bloomed again, the paper said, after Walter was kidnapped in 1997 by gangster Cheung Sze-keung, aka "Big Spender".

While the Kwok family never admitted the kidnapping took place, Cheung reportedly confessed to blindfolding and locking up Walter for five days until a ransom of HK$600 million (US$77 million) was paid. It was after the kidnap that an apparently traumatized Walter, while retaining his title as SHKP chairman, handed over many of his executive duties to his brothers.

It was also around this time that Tong re-entered his life and, according to The Standard, gradually began to play an increasingly assertive role in SHKP affairs. Finally, when Walter moved to seat Tong on the company board, the rest of the family decided to sideline the eldest brother. That was in spite of the fact that since Walter took over the reins of the company its value has increased about 10-fold.

Some Chinese papers have cited sources as saying disagreements among the brothers on investment projects might have been a cause of the board rift. At a board meeting last Thursday, Raymond and Thomas raised 17 grievances about Walter's actions, which included that their eldest brother made some major management decisions, some of which turned out to be unwise, without consulting them.

While the boardroom battle has provided great entertainment to the casual observer, it raises serious questions about business practices in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, where family dynasties are commonplace, especially in the region's big property companies.

In Hong Kong alone, Henderson Land Development, Great Eagle Holdings, Wheelock and Co and Hysan Development are all dynastic in structure. And Victor Li Tzar-kuoi serves as managing director and vice chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings. (The gangster Cheung was sentenced to death in 1998 in the mainland city of Guangzhou on charges that included also kidnapping Victor Li.)

What happens when family loyalty turns to family feud? In the case of SHKP, the company's market value dropped $4.6 billion over a seven-day period ending last Friday. The shares recovered 2.2% on Monday as it became clear Walter was on his way out. They closed on Tuesday up less than 1% at HK$126.80, about 27% down from their 12-month high of HK$175.40 on January 8.

Domestic squabbling is a poor business model for Asia to offer the world.

The scandal involving the Kwoks' HK$325 billion company coincides with other disturbing business stories in Hong Kong, the most prominent of which involves David Li Kwok-po, chief executive of the Bank of East Asia in Hong Kong, who resigned in February from his position on the city's elite Executive Council after agreeing to pay US$8.1 million to the US government after an investigation into an insider-trader deal. The US Securities and Exchange Commission had accused Li, a member of the Dow Jones board, of passing privileged information to a friend ahead of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation's bid for Dow Jones and Company. Li admitted no wrongdoing but nevertheless agreed to pay the fine.

More recently, corporate gadfly David Webb, who strongly urged Li's Exco resignation following the SEC findings, himself resigned this month from the board of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the city's stock exchange, accusing the bourse of practicing poor corporate governance and succumbing to political influence. Other exchange officials dispute Webb's claims.

Corporate governance issues also featured in the Kwok feud, with Walter alleging in one of his writs that Thomas and Raymond repeatedly disagreed with his attempts at improving corporate governance and that his brothers sought to remove him from his positions to gain control of the board.

A highly successful, Oxford-educated financier, Webb chose to retire 10 years ago, at the age of 32, to become a crusader for better corporate ethics in the city. Companies he took on included Henderson Land Development, Sun Hung Kai's partner in the International Finance Center and whose chairman, Lee Shau-kee, is also the non-executive director of Sun Hung Kai.
  - 2008 May 28    ASIA TIMES

Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai mum about family rift

Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Properties insisted Thursday the company was operating normally but refused to comment on an alleged family rift that has dominated media headlines.

The three brothers, Walter, Thomas and Raymond Kwok, who control the city's largest residential property developer, have been in the media spotlight since February 18 when Walter, the eldest, suddenly took temporary leave.

In a late night notice at the time, the company said he did it for personal reasons and that he would not undertake any executive duties during the period, the length of which was unspecified.

In a personal statement immediately following, Walter said he would take a holiday, visiting the United States and Beijing, among other places, before resuming his duties.

However, media reports alleged Walter was ordered by his mother to step aside because of his involvement with a female friend who has become increasingly influential in the firm and on the 56-year-old, a married man.

The two younger brothers asked their mother, a major shareholder of the company, to intervene, local media said.

The three brothers, worth a total of 24 billion dollars, usually host media briefings for earnings announcements.

But the company said Thursday it had asked the two younger brothers to skip a briefing on interim results to avoid questions about the alleged dispute in the family.

"This is a decision made by the management.... This is suggested by the board and has the support from them," Executive Director Michael Wong told reporters.

"We've seen a lot of reports about the company recently and some of them were not true. It's difficult to clarify all of them," he said.

"We want to stress that Sun Hung Kai is still being managed properly.... We have a lot of experienced people in the management and staff," he added.

"The company has not been affected because of his (Walter's) leave and we are operating normally," he added, emphasising that corporate and personal matters should not be discussed together.

His comments came as the company posted a 24.9 percent net profit increase for the second half of 2007, buoyed by investment revaluation gains.

It posted a net profit of 13.63 billion Hong Kong dollars (1.75 billion US) for the six months to December 2007, up from 10.91 billion dollars a year earlier.

The property giant recorded a revaluation surplus on investment properties of 7.46 billion dollars, up 25 percent year-on-year.

Excluding revaluation gains, underlying profit rose 17 percent to 6.2 billion dollars, with total revenue standing at 11.92 billion dollars, down from 14.78 billion in the same period a year earlier.   -   2008 March 8    YAHOO!

SHK Prop chief forced to take leave: director
Feud among Kwok brothers prompted mum to intervene, says Lee Shau-kee

A member of Hong Kong property giant Sun Hung Kai Properties has confirmed that chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung was forced by his mother to take leave from the company, fuelling suspicion of a family rift.

Speaking in Shanghai, family friend and non-executive director of the firm Lee Shau-kee told reporters over the weekend that Mr Kwok's friendship with a woman had triggered a clash between his two younger brothers, causing the mother to take action.

The chairman took a sudden leave of absence from Sun Hung Kai last month, prompting speculation of a feud among the brothers. Mr Kwok cited pressing travel arrangements for his decision.

Mr Lee says he took part in a board meeting via a teleconference in which the three brothers clashed. This then led the mother to step in and ask the elder Kwok to move aside.

'I took part at the board meeting,' Mr Lee was quoted in the South China Morning Post as saying. 'I would not say they quarrelled. It is normal that people have different views. But then their mother stepped in and asked Walter to take leave and take a rest. She just did not want to see the brothers' relations strained.'

The local press in Hong Kong has been in a frenzy since the news broke, printing graphic details of Mr Kwok's alleged relationship with the female friend.

The reports would come as a blow to the Kwok family, well known for its conservative public presence and values, as well as its good standing in the community. Some members of the Kwok family are known as regular churchgoers, and the family has always shied from controversy.

The family manages to stay relatively low key in a city where tycoons are treated like movie stars.

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 as third on Forbes' Greater China rich list, with an estimated net worth of US$14 billion.

Mr Lee said Mr Kwok's female friend had no formal role in the company. He said, however: 'She sometimes gives Walter advice. It was inevitable some gossip would come out.' It is allegedly the woman's role in the company which has angered the two other brothers, vice-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and managing director Raymond Kwok Ping-luen.

Mr Lee said: 'Sometimes, your friend can influence you more than your mother.' Other tycoons waded into the fray at the weekend, with casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun quoted in the Hong Kong Standard as offering advice to the troubled chairman.

Mr Ho was reported as saying that the elder Kwok should listen to his mother and patch up the relationship with his brothers.

The scandal seems to have had minimal effect on the company, with analysts expecting things to work out in the future. BOC International research director Allan Ng said: 'I don't think it will have any serious impact ... the mother is still there, so she can obviously keep things under control. She's obviously very much still in the driving seat.'

Walter Kwok remains an executive director in a number of other listed companies, and is a standing committee member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The tycoon was reportedly one of several billionaires kidnapped in 1997 by notorious gangster Cheung Tze-keung, otherwise known as 'Big Spender'. These reports have never been confirmed by the family.   - 2008 March 3   BUSINESS TIMES

Rift in Sun Hung Kai's Kwok family: reports

The woes of one of Hong Kong's major property clans intensified yesterday as headlines across the city reported an apparent rift between members of the family behind Sun Hung Kai Properties and the alleged role played by a female friend of the chairman.

Chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, the eldest of three brothers at the helm of the property giant, took sudden leave of absence from the company this week. The move prompted speculation of a feud among the family.

Press reports have homed in on a friendship between Mr Kwok and a woman as a possible trigger after sources at the company spoke of discontent among the family ranks over her role in the company and the advice she was giving the elder sibling.

The Chinese language Sing Tao Daily quoted family sources as saying that although daily operations are mainly overseen by the younger brothers Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, Mr Walter Kwok had been taking an aggressive stance over business matters recently.

The South China Morning Post quoted company insiders as saying that the female friend of Mr Walter Kwok's had never been employed by the company, but started to show ambition in certain parts of Sun Hung Kai's business.

According to sources quoted in the paper, this involved a desire to be put in charge of the company's China operations. The paper said that Sun Hung Kai Properties matriarch Kwong Siu-hing was asked to step in, urging Mr Walter Kwok's leave of absence.

The press reports would come as a blow to the Kwok family, well known for its conservative public presence and values, as well as its good standing in the community.

'It's the kind of thing they try to keep away from,' one private banker noted.

Some members of the Kwok family are known as regular church-goers, and the family has always shied from controversy. The company has sought to show its concern on public issues, becoming one of several to join a coalition of business groups urging the government to improve planning along the city's harbour front.

The Harbour Business Forum urged greater coordination among government departments following a flood of public complaints over the fate of the shoreline, which is facing 18.73 ha of land reclamation.

The family manages to stay relatively low key in a city where tycoons are treated like movie stars. 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 as third on Forbes' list of the richest people in Greater China, with an estimated net worth of US$14 billion.

Mr Walter Kwok remains an executive director on a number of boards of listed companies, as well as a standing committee member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Sun Hung Kai Properties has said that Mr Walter Kwok is taking the leave of absence due to ongoing personal and business overseas trips and plans to resume his duties.   - 2008 February 21    SINGAPORE BUSINESS TIMES

Sun Hung Kai denies Walter Kwok report 
No disputes; chairman on leave for 2-3 months

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd, Hong Kong's biggest builder by market value, has denied a newspaper report that chairman Walter Kwok was forced to go on leave after a disagreement with his brothers over an investment.

Mr Kwok and his brothers, Thomas Kwok and Raymond Kwok, offered to let their mother, Kwong Siu-hing, take the chairmanship of the company to resolve the dispute, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported yesterday. She declined, the Chinese-language newspaper said.

'We deny that report,' Sun Hung Kai spokeswoman Fiona Wan said in a phone interview.

Sun Hung Kai on Monday said in a statement that Walter Kwok had gone on leave for unspecified 'personal reasons', relinquishing all duties. His responsibilities were assumed by his brothers.

Walter Kwok said in a statement late on Monday that his leave was because of 'ongoing personal and business trips to overseas, which will last 2-3 months'. He said he would resume chairmanship of the company when he returns.

'Walter shall not undertake or be involved with the discharge of any executive duties nor make any commitment of any nature whatsoever on behalf of the company,' the company said, referring to when he is on leave.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment on speculation that the leave was due to his health.  - 2008 February 20     BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

Lover's Feud Splits Kwok Brothers

SHKP tycoons the Kwok brothers have been torn apart over chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung's affair with a woman he brought into the family firm against his siblings' wishes.

Matriarch Kwong Siu-hing stepped in to protect the family's interests yesterday by removing Walter, who is also chief executive, from his positions, a source close to the family said.

His brothers, Thomas Kwok Ping- kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, were furious that their elder brother brought his long-time girlfriend - surnamed Tong - into the business.

Tong, who has been having an affair with married Walter for several years, has become increasingly influential in the company, the source said.

The family felt increasingly threatened by her presence, and the brothers' mother - the largest shareholder in the company - decided Walter had to go.

"The family felt threatened by the woman's influence on the company and the mother felt she had no other choice for the time being but to oust her eldest son to protect the family's interests," the source said.

Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016) issued a statement late last night saying Walter will take a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons, with immediate effect.

During his leave of absence, he will relinquish all his duties and responsibilities, which will be assumed by his brothers. He will not undertake or be involved with the discharge of any executive duties, nor make any commitment on behalf of the company and any of its subsidiaries. The company will hold its board meeting on March 6 to announce its interim results.

A company spokesman said Walter is only taking temporary leave. As a listed company, Sun Hung Kai Properties is only showing its responsibility by making the announcement. It stressed that no further announcement will me made concerning the matter.

Walter later issued a personal statement through the company's PR department stating: "Thanks for your concern. In the coming two to three months, I will take a personal holiday to travel to the United States, Beijing and other big cities. During my leave of absence, my duties will be taken over by my two brothers. I will resume my duties after this journey.

"As a responsible CEO, I need to release the statement regarding the arrangement."

Walter, 58, inherited the business with his two brothers in 1990 following the death of their father, Kwok Tak Seng. The Kwok brothers are the third wealthiest people in Hong Kong and the Greater China region, after Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee, with their wealth estimated to be US$15 billion (HK$117 billion) in Forbes latest annual list of billionaires.

On Friday, Walter was seen at a cocktail party hosted by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.   - 2008 February 19   THE STANDARD

HK's Sun Hung Kai Properties higher despite chairman's leave of absence

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd (SHKP), one of Hong Kong's largest developers, was higher in line with the broad market despite news that its chairman and chief executive Walter Kwok Ping-sheung will take a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons with immediate effect.

At 10:15 am, shares of Sun Hung Kai Properties were trading up 0.6 hkd or 0.43 pct at 140.0.

Dealers said investors do not expect any major changes to result from the move because Walter Kwok has long shared leadership of the company with brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, who will replace him during his absence.

Local media reported that the Kwok family has been torn apart by Walter Kwok's affair with a woman he brought into the company over the objections of his brothers and that their mother, SHKP's largest shareholder, removed her son as chairman.   - 2008 February 19  SELFTRADE

HK Sun Hung Kai Props chairman Walter Kwok takes leave amid family squabble

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd (SHKP) said its chairman and chief executive Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, 56, will take a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons with immediate effect.

His duties will be assumed by his younger brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, who are both vice-chairmen and managing directors of the company, SHKP said in a statement.

The company said Walter Kwok would not undertake any executive duties or make any commitment of behalf of the company or any of its subsidiaries during the leave period.

In a personal statement, Walter Kwok said he would take a holiday, visiting the United States and Beijing, among other places, before resuming his duties.

The Standard newspaper reported that the family has been torn apart by Walter Kwok's affair with a woman he brought into the family firm against his brothers' wishes.

Matriarch Kwong Siu-hing, the largest shareholder in the company, stepped in to protect the family's interests yesterday by removing her son as chairman, the report said, quoting a source close to the family.   - 2008 February 18  SELFTRADE

Hong Kong's Sun Hun Kai Properties chairman takes temporary leave of absence

One of Hong Kong's biggest property developers has announced a sudden leave of absence for its chairman and chief executive.

Walter Kwok, one of three brothers who control developer Sun Hung Kai Properties, is handing all of his duties to his two younger siblings, the company said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange late Monday.

"Accordingly, during his leave of absence ... Walter shall not undertake or be involved with the discharge of any executive duties nor make any commitment of any nature whatsoever on behalf of the Company and any of its subsidiaries," the surprising statement by the Hong Kong-listed company said.

With a combined fortune of US$24 billion (16.4 billion), the Kwok brothers rank No. 2 on Hong Kong's rich list, behind tycoon Li Ka-shing, according to Forbes business magazine.

The company statement said Kwok was taking the leave for "personal reasons." Media reports speculated he was in ill-health or that the brothers had fallen out over Walter's girlfriend.

Walter Kwok said in a statement issued Monday night that he had personal and business matters that would take him away from Hong Kong for several months, according to the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.   - 2008 February 18   ASSOCIATED PRESS

`HK's Camilla' keeps mum

The woman at the heart of the Kwok family split remained tight-lipped last night as sources revealed her relationship with the SHKP chairman stretches back 30 years - before his marriage to Wendy.

Walter Kwok Ping-sheung's relationship with Ida Tong Kam-hing, who is five years his senior, is being likened to Prince Charles' secret romance with Camilla Parker-Bowles before his marriage to Lady Diana.

Though Tong, a lawyer, is keeping a low profile over her involvement with Kwok that has led to his "temporary" removal from the Sun Hung Kai chairmanship, sources familiar with Tong yesterday painted a picture of a plain- looking, aggressive woman, who had frequent spats with the wives of his two brothers, who are on the SHKP board.

And Tong's ex-husband told The Standard yesterday there was even an argument on their wedding day that left them bereft of photographs of the event.

"We did not take any picture of our wedding since we had an argument with the photographer," said Alan Lau Kwok-lam, 62.

Lau said he did not have any picture of his former wife as she took away everything when they broke up. They divorced more than 20 years ago.

He said his three children by Tong, who are now in their 30s, have been shocked by the news of her relationship with Kwok. He said they were "frustrated and unhappy."

He added: "They got to know about the scandal from newspapers and from friends. They called me to ask what was happening.  

"Undoubtedly, they were upset. But i

t was difficult for me to comment or explain to them, as I have no idea what has been going on."

He appealed to the press not to try to track down and pester his children.

The Standard contacted Ida Tong by phone last night, but she declined to comment. "I can't talk right now," was all she would say.

However, sources said they understood 57-year-old Walter Kwok wanted to give Tong a seat on the board, and that this was the final straw for the family, prompting matriarch Kwong Siu- hing to step in and relieve him of his duties.

"Ida had been meeting Walter before he married, but the relationship ended as his father objected," one source said. This was some 30 years ago, before Walter Kwok married Wendy. The source added that Kwok Tak-seng, co-founder of the blue-chip property developer, did not want Ida to have any involvement in the business through his eldest son.

However, Tong started to meet Walter again about nine years ago, after he was reportedly kidnapped by "Big Spender" Cheung Sze-keung in 1996.

It was reported that Kwok had been beaten and locked up for five days, and became reserved and quiet after the family paid some HK$600 million in ransom for his release.

According to those who have met Tong, she is not beautiful. "She is not tall, her skin is very dark," a source said. But she was a very aggressive woman, and sometimes attended company meetings.

A source close to one of the deals said: "Last year, someone agreed to buy residential units aggressively on SHKP's behalf, while addressing herself as `Mrs Kwok.' That woman said she is Mrs Kwok and can make decisions. She even said Mr Kwok would sign the contract afterwards."

Tong is also said to have frequently had run-ins with the wives of Walter's brothers, Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen.

Recently, when Walter planned to give Tong a seat on the board of SHKP, the Kwok family decided that Tong should be barred from decision-making, a source said. It has been suggested that a minor shake-up will follow, and that during Kwok's leave of absence, the management will clear out staff close to Tong.

Tong's former husband, Lau, is chairman of the Hong Kong Private Hospitals Association.

The veteran doctor claimed he and his ex-wife had little contact since their divorce.

"We don't even talk to each other, not even to say `hi' when we bump into each other in public places - just like strangers," he said.

Lau said he met Tong when he was 18 and studying medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

He recalled it was not love at first sight.

"I had dated a few girls before her. She was a very intelligent and independent woman. Of course, I found her pretty at the time."

They married five years later but the marriage lasted only 12 years.

The gynecologist-obstetrician said he had expected to be hounded by paparazzi after news broke of Tong's relationship with Walter Kwok.

"All these years I have been speaking in public about many controversial issues involving medicine. However, I don't like this [to be chased after for topics surrounding my personal life] though I understand the press has its work to do," he said.

Lau insisted he did not know any member of the Kwok family nor did he know when or how Tong became acquainted with Kwok.

"I have been practising my profession and they are developers. Probably she came to know Kwok after the divorce. In fact, I was surprised to find out from the newspaper that she knew him," he said.  -  2008 February 21  THE STANDARD


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