Linus Cheung rumoured to have quit ATV

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2009, 12:00am

Linus Cheung Wing-lam, the ambitious chairman Asia Television had hoped would revive its flagging fortunes, has reportedly stepped down one year after his much publicised appointment.

His departure would be another blow to ATV, which appeared to be on the mend after an injection of funds early this year by Tsai Eng-meng, a Taiwanese billionaire.

Ricky Wong Wai-kay, chairman of City Telecom (Hong Kong), was appointed as the station's chief executive at the same time as Cheung but quit after less than two weeks.

Sources close to ATV's board of directors said Cheung probably 'saw the writing on the wall' when businessman Payson Cha Mou-sing - whose family controls the broadcaster - started wielding more influence in management issues.

A spokesman for ATV was not available to comment.

Chan Wing-kee, an ATV shareholder, declined to speculate on the rumour but said the operations of the broadcaster were fine.

A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it was aware of some rumours about Cheung's resignation. The government and the Broadcasting Authority were in close contact with ATV and would monitor its operation and developments, he said.

Under the Broadcasting Ordinance, ATV, as a domestic free television programme service licensee, must formally notify the authority of any changes in its directors or principal officers within seven days.

ATV appointed Cheung as executive chairman and Wong as chief executive officer on December 4 last year. They were expected to spearhead a revival at the city's smallest terrestrial broadcaster, which had reportedly been losing HK$2 million a day. But Wong lasted just 12 days in the job after what was seen as a clash of wills and style with Cheung.

Cheung and Wong once ran competing telecom operators, with Cheung in charge of what was then Cable & Wireless HKT in the 1990s, while Wong founded City Telecom in 1992. City Telecom set off a price war to try to grab a piece of the international direct dialling market, which Cable & Wireless dominated. Cheung became deputy chairman of PCCW after it swallowed Cable & Wireless but left the firm at the end of 2003.

Rumours of an early demise for Cheung at ATV intensified after he relinquished his executive role in April. He asked the board of directors to drop his executive chairman title following the appointment of Nancy Hu Gin-ing as chief executive in February.

Since the appointment of Cheung and Wong, the broadcaster had shed more than 300 jobs. Shortly after his appointment, Cheung revealed to legislators that ATV needed about HK$1 billion to continue operating for the next three years.