Former Octopus chief back in business for TVB

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 February, 2011, 12:00am

Prudence Chan Bik-wah, the controversial former chief executive at smart card payment system provider Octopus Holdings, has re-emerged as the new general manager for international operations at Television Broadcasts (TVB).

Hong Kong's leading free-to-air television broadcaster yesterday said the appointment of Chan, who resigned from the Octopus group last August amid a privacy-breach scandal, was effective immediately.

TVB said that with Chan on board, it was confident the 'management team will continue to lead the company to grow from strength to strength'.

Chan, however, carries plenty of baggage for her part in the controversial sale of customer information to third parties by the Octopus card issuer.

In July last year, local lawmakers lambasted Chan and called for her resignation from the Octopus group for having initially denied, at a news conference, selling cardholders' data but admitting two weeks later during an investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner that the Octopus group pocketed HK$44 million for sharing information of 1.97 million cardholders with six merchant partners between 2006 and 2009.

Chan in August resigned from the Octopus group, whose biggest shareholder is the MTR Corp, amid the outcry. She insisted that Octopus, under her watch, 'adhered to all laws and regulations', but added that the issue 'could have been better handled'.

Her appointment by TVB followed last month's HK$6.26 billion divestment by Shaw Brothers (Hong Kong), owned by 103-year-old media mogul Sir Run Run Shaw, of its entire 26 per cent stake in the broadcaster to an investor group led by ITC Corp chairman Charles Chan Kwok-keung, Taiwanese entrepreneur Cher Wang and Providence Equity Partners, a United States-based private equity firm.

Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a professor of political science at City University, believed Hongkongers would accept Chan being given a 'second chance'.

'Chan resigned, paid the price and accepted responsibility. I believe Hong Kong people will be lenient,' he said.

In comments published in August last year, Mike Rowse, a search director at executive search consultants Stanton Chase International, said Chan had to leave the Octopus group because the privacy breach 'escalated to a cause celebre and only a 'human sacrifice' would appease the mob'.

'She had the misfortune to be closest when the bomb went off,' Rowse said.

Cheng said Chan was 'generally perceived as a capable corporate executive'.

TVB described her as having had 'an outstanding career as a senior executive of several prominent companies'.

A TVB spokeswoman declined to provide more details about Chan's hiring at TVB International.

TVBI, established in 1976, is the worldwide operating arm of TVB. It operates Chinese-language pay-TV channels, satellite TV stations, satellite TV services and cable TV services in the United States, Europe and Australia. It runs Taiwan's TVBS station, which includes four channels.

It supplies Chinese-language programmes to cable and satellite service operators and video distributors in the mainland, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and North America.

Prior to Chan's appointment, the post of TVBI general manager had been vacant for about five years.

Chan was named chief executive of the Octopus group in November 2006, after serving as country manager for Hong Kong and Macau at financial services firm Visa International.

Prior to joining Visa in 2002, she held various senior management and marketing positions in the city's telecommunications sector, including at SmarTone Mobile Communications and Hong Kong Telecom.