Book tells of management feud at KCRC

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2007, 12:00am

Some people saw it as a dramatic corporate coup, others said it led to the fall of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, which ceased its century-long operations just days ago.

Now, one year after the KCRC management feud, one of the main protagonists will unveil details of the tussle that resulted in his resignation.

Samuel Lai Man-hay, the former KCRC chief executive who clashed very publicly with former chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun, has written a book detailing why he resigned a day after apparently reconciling with Mr Tien and shaking his hand before the cameras.

Calling his Chinese-language book The Longest Week, Mr Lai details the long-term dissatisfaction he and his colleagues had with their chairman who, Mr Lai says, built his image at the expense of the corporation's.

'In a lunch meeting with a senior media executive, I asked him why his paper was particularly interested in stories concerning KCRC, regardless of how trivial they were,' Mr Lai writes. 'That executive told me, 'It is because you have a fun chairman - who is like a big fish among sharks. He regularly wounds himself, and that makes him very interesting'.'

Several times in the book, Mr Lai suggests that someone leaked high-level confidential material to the media over the years - including the Siemens incident, which made headlines in all newspapers in 2002.

'On January 11, 2002, Michael Tien presided over his first KCRC board meeting ... some members were dismayed they needed to pay extra to Siemens to get them to complete the contract ... it was supposed to be strictly confidential but the following day it appears on the front page of Ming Pao,' Mr Lai writes.

Mr Lai wrote to the KCRC board of directors on March 9 last year demanding Mr Tien step down. Thousands of staff signed a petition supporting the move. Mr Lai and general manager Michael Lai Kai-hin resigned eight days later.

Mr Tien, who stepped down from the KCRC chairmanship last Sunday, said he was not prepared to read the book or take any legal action against Mr Lai unless it contained material he considered libellous.

'I don't care what he wrote about me and I don't even want to find out,' Mr Tien said. 'The incident is all behind me now. I want to look forward and I have better things to do.'

But he warned that Mr Lai may have trouble with the KCRC and the government if he discloses information that he should not as a former KCRC official.

The book goes on sale on Tuesday and Mr Lai will launch it next Thursday at Cosmos Books in Wan Chai.