Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 1:03pm


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Insurance godfather returns to old love in search of glory

It's not often you hear someone talk non-stop on a topic for 20 minutes, but that's what you'll get if you ask former American International Group top executive Edmund Tse Sze-wing (below) about his favourite hobby - playing bridge.

The godfather of Hong Kong insurance stepped down from his full-time job with the once-mighty United States insurer in March - he's still honorary chairman of American International Assurance - and has gradually been hitting the bridge circuit in search of glory.

Three weeks ago, he captained a team at the North American Bridge Championships and made it to the round of 32 (the equivalent of the third round at Wimbledon, his teammate said) against mostly professional bridge players. In one match he played against the team of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates - Mr Tse's team lost 0 to 20 but still managed to end the tournament with a higher ranking than Mr Gates' team.

'I realise I can still compete with some of the best in the world,' said the 72-year-old, who won the Far East Bridge Tournament in 1986.

'I haven't really played bridge in the past 10 years, but now I can play more because I am semi-retired.'

He will take part in next week's Inter-City Bridge Championships.

The low-profile businessman has been one of the most sought after by the media in the past year to explain what went wrong at AIG, which had to be bailed out by the US taxpayer to the tune of US$85 billion last September, and about plans to spin off AIA.

These days Mr Tse says reporters are welcome to visit any time as long as we promise not to ask about business.

After talking about bridge, he moved on to his other favourite hobby - tennis.

Battle royal at bridge event

China Resources is not only sponsoring the Inter-City Bridge Championships this year, it is also entering some of the best players.

China Resources Land chairman Wang Yin has formed a team with six other enthusiasts who include Gui Shengyue, chief executive of Geely Automobile Holdings, while China Resources Enterprise chairman Song Lin will be in another team.

They will be playing against the likes of former legislators Martin Lee Chu-ming and Eric Li Ka-cheung in the celebrity tournament on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, two bridge celebrities - Securities & Futures Commission chief executive Martin Wheatley and former PCCW deputy chairman Francis Yuen Tin-fan - will not be taking part.

But we suppose the pair already had a chance to match wits in court earlier this year.

Noble boss waxes poetic

If you make more money for your shareholders, then you are entitled to subject them to a bit of verse.

That is what Noble Group chairman David Eldon did in a public letter to shareholders after the Singapore-listed supply chain company announced record profits this week.

Mr Eldon always likes to come up with something different and thought-provoking in his chairman's message, and this one was no different.

'If is a small but powerful word used by countless report writers, analysts, politicians, economists, children ... just about everyone it seems, to explain or justify why a particular course or prediction either took place or did not follow an assumed pattern,' he wrote.

'At Noble happily we have not had occasion, at least in recent times, to use the word to explain why we had not achieved a particular set of targets or goals.'

He then goes on to recite three verses from Rudyard Kipling's famous poem 'If', which he said came to mind as he reflected on the company's coming of age - 'our transition to adulthood passing through 21.'

Here's the last stanza:

'If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a man, my son!'

Stirring stuff. It's going to be hard to top in the next interim report.

More words of wisdom

To sum up a week in which the Hang Seng Index struggled to stay above 21,000 despite most companies reporting better than expected results, we have taken an 'If' quote from billionaire Li Ka-shing.

'Be careful,' he warned. 'If punting stocks can earn you big money, we all do not need to work that hard ... especially our media friends here.'