Sun Hung Kai Properties

Walter Kwok may take new role

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2008, 12:00am

Tycoon 'willing to be non-executive director'

Tycoon Walter Kwok Ping-sheung would be willing to accept an appointment as a non-executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties if the company's board removed him as chairman and chief executive officer today, a source said.

This willingness to come to terms with his younger brothers, according to a source close to Mr Kwok, amounts to an acceptance of defeat in a six-month family row that rocked business and political circles.

But the source says he would refuse any offer to manage the group's hotel and catering operation, an option considered by his brothers' camp, headed by Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen.

This emerged after the Court of Appeal yesterday put an end to Walter Kwok's legal battle to stop the board from discussing a proposal to oust him. It rejected his application for an injunction ahead of today's board meeting.

However, sources close to the brothers said Walter Kwok had not given the company any indication he would accept a post as a non-executive director and described indications that he would do so as a trick.

In a statement last night, Walter Kwok said he felt 'hurt' because 'some people have been spreading false facts to mislead shareholders', alleging he was unfit to lead Sun Hung Kai because of mental illness.

But despite urging the board to drop the plan to oust him from the chairmanship - a duty he carried out 'without shaming our late father' Kwok Tak-shing since he died 18 years ago, Walter Kwok said he would be willing to negotiate a resolution with his brothers without preconditions.

'We are three brothers. Why should we fight each other?' he said.

'No matter under any circumstances, I will try my very best and continue to work for the best interest of the company,' he said in the statement.

According to the board meeting agenda, directors will first vote to bring Kwong Siu-hing - the highly respected mother of the three brothers - onto the board, before voting to terminate Walter Kwok's positions.

After voting to appoint Ms Kwong the new chairwoman until the next annual general meeting, the board will vote to appoint Walter Kwok a non-executive director. A source close to Walter Kwok said he would have no choice but to accept the offer, which would enable him to retain a base in the company's management and the opportunity to fight back in the future.

A source close to the company said the plan was that Ms Kwong would not be involved in daily operations. But according to the agenda for today's meeting, directors are not being asked to appoint a new chief executive officer.

'Thomas and Raymond will be in charge of the property and finance business, respectively. That's what they are doing. Regarding the hotel and food and beverage operations - that Walter had managed before - it is not yet decided who will take over.'

Sun Hung Kai Properties issued a statement welcoming the Court of Appeal decision.

The row reached boiling point in February when Walter Kwok took three months' leave after his brothers 'repeatedly expressed disagreement' with his attempts to improve corporate governance, accountability and transparency, according to the writ with which he failed to seek the injunction.