ATV - Asia Television Limited

ATV documents can go to tycoon: court

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am

ATV's executive director yesterday lost an appeal to block another director from passing the broadcaster's financial and operations documents to a shareholder.

James Shing Pan-yu failed to convince the Court of Appeal to impose conditions on director Kevin Tsai Shao-chung, the son of Taiwanese snack tycoon and ATV shareholder Tsai Eng-meng, to limit his use of the documents to the purposes of discharging his duties as a member of ATV's board of directors.

Anson Wong, a lawyer for Shing, argued the documents should not be passed to Kevin Tsai's father and his company, Antenna, which controls some 47 per cent of ATV. Tsai Eng-meng owns 49 per cent of Antenna.

The lawyer said the father and son had been using the confidential information for their own interests in litigation against other shareholders over control of the station.

Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau, Madam Justice Maria Yuen Ka-ning and Mr Justice Joseph Fok dismissed the appeal by the free-to-air station's chief. They will hand down their judgment at a later date.

Yesterday's ruling against Shing follows the revelation in a Communications Authority draft report, which called him unfit to hold a broadcast licence and proposed fining the station a record HK$1 million because he ceded much of his day-to-day responsibilities to major investor Wong Ching.

Details of the report were revealed two days ago for the first time in court filings when ATV lodged a judicial challenge to block the authority from releasing its final report. ATV filed its court challenge on Tuesday, before a Thursday deadline for a written response to the report. The documents were released for public inspection on Wednesday.

Yesterday's appeal hearing follows a Court of First Instance ruling in September last year that Kevin Tsai could have unlimited access to the documents, since it was company policy that such information could be passed to shareholders. But two weeks later, the court imposed a condition that Kevin Tsai may use the finance and operations documents only to discharge his duties as a board member. This followed ATV's application for a delay of a Court of First Instance order on September 16, pending an appeal.

Barrister Charles Manzoni, for Tsai, told the appeal court yesterday that Tsai only learned about a damning draft report and ATV's application for a judicial review on Thursday, despite being a director.

The report, the contents of which were revealed for the first time in court filings, also found that Shing doctored and withheld minutes of the weekly management meeting to 'conceal the true extent' of investor Wong Ching's participation in the meetings.

Yesterday, Manzoni also rejected Shing's accusation that his client had used the documents for his own interests, which had nothing to do with the station's operation. He said ATV's shareholders were legitimate parties who should have access to company information.

In an earlier hearing, Manzoni called the appeal application a tactical ploy by Wong Ching, a relative of Shing.

'What Wong is trying to do is to keep his sole control of ATV for as long as he can,' Manzoni said earlier. 'Mr Wong is trying to wrest control [of the station] from Mr Tsai.'