Tycoon quits university post over key project

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2006, 12:00am

Tycoon Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung has submitted his resignation from the post of council chairman of City University in a bid to avoid a controversy over an appeal hearing on his Mega Tower project in Wan Chai.

He made the decision last week after the Town Planning Appeal Board informed him of the date of the hearing and composition of the appeal panel - which would be chaired by Anthony Cooray, a professor at City University's law school.

The Hopewell Holdings' chairman said: 'It is a very sad decision. But it is inevitable. Otherwise, if the appeal outcome favours the project, I will face accusations of collusion or allegations of conflict of interest.

'I sought legal advice and was told I didn't have to resign because I had no command over the law school and its personnel. I don't want to give anyone any excuse to say I won because of my relationship with City University.'

A spokeswoman for City University confirmed Sir Gordon's resignation, but said she was 'in no position' to confirm the date on which it became effective.

The university was 'awaiting a new appointment by Chief Executive' Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, she added.

'We regret Sir Gordon's decision to resign as council chairman but we understand the reasons and respect his decision,' she said. 'He has devoted considerable time and energy to the university's affairs and issues and he will be sorely missed by staff and students.'

John Tse Wing-ling, chairman of the university's staff association, said Sir Gordon's departure would be 'a big loss'.

'Sir Gordon was different from previous council chairmen. They were mostly just ceremonial heads who very rarely assumed power, and just let management do what it wanted,' Dr Tse said. 'But Sir Gordon really got things done. He was ready to listen to the staff instead of simply taking the management's side.

'Our concern is that the council will go back to being a rubber stamp for management.'

Sir Gordon appealed to the Town Planning Appeal Board in May last year after Hopewell's plans to build two 58-storey towers bordering Kennedy Road, Queen's Road East and Ship Street in Wan Chai were turned down amid strong public opposition.

The Town Planning Board rejected the development in April last year as it was too large and would create a wall effect, blocking views from Bowen Road.

The appeal board decided last week that the hearing would take place on January 18 next year.

Hopewell has hired senior barrister Benjamin Yu SC as its representative.

Sir Gordon said he was confident of the result. 'I have the facts with me.'