Ricky Cheng sued over sushi outlets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 2011, 12:00am

A Hong Kong businessman renowned for placing high bids at Japanese tuna auctions has been hit with a claim for damages in relation to a long-running ownership dispute over the Itamae and Itacho chains of sushi restaurants.

The latest lawsuit involves a company called Smart Wave, in which Ricky Cheng Wai-tao and seven others are shareholders. The other shareholders, represented by one of them, filed the lawsuit against Cheng earlier this week in the High Court.

Together they are asking for damages or equitable compensation for what they allege are breaches of Cheng's fiduciary duties to the company in opening the restaurants, and are calling for an account of the profits he has made.

They say Cheng, through 29 companies he controls, has opened multiple Itamae and Itacho restaurants around Hong Kong after he sold sushi restaurants of the same name to another investor. The 29 companies have also been named as defendants.

Cheng, who is a well-known television host, paid HK$813,000 for a 128kg fish in 2009 and HK$430,000 for a 276kg catch in 2008.

Last year, Itamae Sushi and Japanese partner Kyubei Sushi paid HK$1.37 million at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market for a 232.6kg bluefin tuna. The bid was the second-highest since 2001, indicating the rarity of the fish.

The company's latest annual return says it has eight shareholders, including Cheng and Jason Poon Ka-man, who is representing the other shareholders in the case. Cheng is the sole director of Smart Wave.

Last April, a company owned by Steak Expert founder Andrew Lee sued Cheng, alleging he had breached an agreement on the opening of Japanese chain restaurants.