Sir Run Run eyes retirement at 100 while TVB stake sale looms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2007, 12:00am
 

Sir Run Run Shaw, the executive chairman of Television Broadcasts, is likely to step down this year at age 100, ending almost 30 years of leading Hong Kong's biggest television operator, his wife and deputy chairman Mona Fong Yat-wah said yesterday.


Ms Fong told reporters after the annual shareholders' meeting that Sir Run Run 'is considering to retire' this year as he celebrates his 100th birthday in October.


TVB, Hong Kong's dominant free-to-air broadcaster, was searching for Sir Run Run's replacement, she said without elaborating.


His retirement may signal the sale of his TVB stake, the subject of market talk for months. He owns 75 per cent of Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong), which holds 26 per cent of TVB. But Ms Fong said 'no investor is discussing with us [to acquire the TVB stake]'.


George Chan Ching-cheong, TVB assistant managing director, said: 'It is not appropriate for management to comment on the issue. Our responsibility is to do the company's business well.'


Sir Run Run was appointed executive chairman in 1980, 13 years after TVB was established in November 1967. He founded Shaw Brothers in the 1920s in Shanghai and made it Asia's largest studio in 1958.


'It is not an issue whether Sir Run Run retires or not, as the company has been under his wife's control for years. The focus is who will be the buyer,' an analyst said.


Shaw Brothers in July last year confirmed market talk that its controlling shareholder was approached and in talks over a stake sale. Four months later, the company said there were no further discussions. Even so, shares of Shaw Brothers and TVB surged in the past year as investors bet on a possible change of control.


TVB's smaller rival, Asia Television, has announced a change of control to a company held by the family of businessman Cha Chi-ming, and market watchers said it had poached former TVB executives such as Ho Ting-kwan to help run the company.


'It's not the first time ATV changed shareholders, and we will perform well in the future. We are facing competition from other television stations and channels and the industry is changing,' Mr Chan said.


TVB could invest HK$400 million to HK$500 million to develop and launch a digital terrestrial broadcasting service, said Mark Lee Po-on, the general manager of finance and administration.


Mr Lee estimated that 49 per cent-owned TVB Payvision would break even within three years after a HK$160 million loss last year.


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