Kwoks try to ensure a 'sense of security'
The scandal-hit bosses of Sun Hung Kai Properties evoked former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt in a message of encouragement to staff on Friday, telling them: 'The only thing to fear is fear itself.'
And an academic who has studied the management of Chinese family businesses says the decision of joint chairmen and managing directors Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen to hand control of the firm to the family's third generation while they fight graft charges will help keep fear at bay.
On Friday, the Kwoks were charged with bribery and public misconduct by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, along with former government No2 Rafael Hui Si-yan and two other men, Sun Hung Kai's executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and Francis Kwan Hung-sang, a former official of the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Thomas Kwok's son, Adam Kwok Kai-fai, 29, and 31-year-old Edward Kwok Ho-lai - son of Raymond Kwok, were appointed alternate directors.
Dr Victor Zheng Wan-tai, an associate director at Chinese University's Centre for Social and Political Development Studies, said the arrangement was 'in keeping with the tradition of Chinese family businesses in the face of crisis'. The sons each own 20 per cent of the company's shares through the family trust.
Zheng said entrusting control to the third generation would 'ensure a sense of security' in the family.
Adam Kwok had been a project manager for residential and commercial projects, while Edward Kwok was a sales and project manager responsible for feasibility studies, marketing and planning of new residential projects. They will be supported by two new deputy managing directors, Mike Wong Chik-wing and Victor Lui Ting, who have worked for the company for more than 30 years.
Zheng said: '[Adam and Edward] were certainly being groomed to take over the company by being placed in low-ranking positions - at least what the family considers to be low - to gather experience, and steadily advance up the management ladder, probably over the course of 10 years.
'But with the family in crisis, [Adam and Edward] have had to step up much earlier than expected.'
'With Chinese family businesses, there is a strong sense of safeguarding the wealth that past patriarchs have created and so it is expected to pass it to younger generations.'
The company's 27,000 staff will certainly be hoping so. The internal memo sent around on Friday assured them that the day-to-day operations of the company would remain unchanged.