Richard Li

Newspaper deal within rules, says Richard Li

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 August, 2006, 12:00am

Despite holding a licence to operate a domestic pay TV service, PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai believes his deal involving a controlling stake in the Hong Kong Economic Journal does not violate rules that forbid media cross-ownership.

Mr Li said yesterday the deal did not violate any media rules as he was buying a stake in the paper only as 'a settler of a trust'.

In terms of the deal, 50 per cent of the newspaper will be owned by a new company that will operate the Hong Kong Economic Journal. The other 50 per cent would be held by the newspaper's founder Lam Shan-muk, his wife, Lam Lok Yau-mui and columnist Cho Chi-ming.

A five-member board of directors has been appointed by the new company. Mr Li's trust company, Clermont Media, will appoint three directors to the board - Mr Li's business partner, Morris Ho, former Television Broadcasts executive Robert Chan, and Wesley Chan.

Clermont Media will pay HK$280 million for its 50 per cent stake and not HK$250 million as stated in earlier reports.

The deal follows an agreement by Mr Li to sell a 22.66 per cent stake in PCCW to former investment banker Francis Leung Pak-to.

The deal to acquire the Hong Kong Economic Journal raises the question whether Mr Li has violated the Broadcasting Ordinance. By owning a pay-TV licence for PCCW, Mr Li could be a 'disqualified person' in terms of sections of this law that ban cross ownership in order to avoid media monopolies and conflicts of interest.

A spokeswoman for the Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau said yesterday that, thus far, PCCW Media had not submitted any application requiring approval.

She would not say whether this meant that Mr Li was a 'disqualified person', adding only that the bureau would monitor the situation closely.