Hotung's son tells of family pain after winning legal costs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 June, 2005, 12:00am

An outspoken son of philanthropist Eric Hotung said his court victory against his father had shown the rule of law had 'prevailed over one single powerful, influential and very wealthy individual'.

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Sean Hotung, one of five brothers, praised the high standard of the legal system. 'Thank God, the rule of law works in Hong Kong. If we were in other places, we wouldn't have won this,' he said.

The 78-year-old billionaire had taken four of his eight children to court earlier this year to seek clarification that he had the right to revoke two trusts he set up for them decades ago. The battle, which began five years ago when the children launched a series of actions against the trustees, officially ended yesterday when Mr Justice Robert Tang ruled that the costs of legal proceedings in January must be borne by the father. The same judge also ruled in March that the 78-year-old did not have the right to revoke the trusts.

'It was obvious that there was little love or respect on both sides of this family,' wrote the judge in his ruling yesterday.

Sean Hotung, 40, said he was most upset by his father's allegations that cheques and important documents always went missing in his office when some of his sons were working there.

'One single individual in this family has basically had two to three generations of Hotungs in court because he wanted to do things his way... The plaintiff is the only Hotung who has put almost every single one of his own children in court,' he said.

'I don't think he particularly cared about the distress and the damage that were being done to his children or the family name.'

The son said he called his father when he read a Post report in March in which Mr Hotung was quoted as saying 'my phone is open to anyone who calls' but his children had to make the first move. But he found his father had gone overseas and he did not have a contact number for him.

When he called his American residence in Virginia in early June, a male servant said Mr Hotung was watching TV. After about five minutes of waiting, the servant hung up.

'I think he has a different definition of reconciliation,' said Sean Hotung.

Asked if he wished he had been born into another family, he said: 'I am sure every one of my siblings has asked himself that question. But if I was in another family, I would not have the brothers I have.' Some of his brothers had shown 'incredible endurance and loyalty'.

Eric Hotung could not be reached for comment yesterday.