Mystery boss due to appear

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 1994, 12:00am

REMEMBER January 1988. Yes, the economy was booming and the world's hopes were pinned on China, whose enlightened communist rulers seemed far more in tune than their European and Russian counterparts.

You may also remember the case of the Shui On Centre and its stunning $2.5 billion purchase by the shadowy mainland firm, Zhong Shan International Investments.

Headed by chairman Cheung Siu-wong, who was said to have had strong links with China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, the transaction was at the time the largest ever in the territory.

Yet the deal fell through after Zhong Shan International failed to stump up the first payment of $562 million to the Shui On company. Mr Cheung and his company were never heard of again after they forfeited the $50 million deposit.

Now it seems the prodigal son is back. We hear Mr Cheung will arrive in Hong Kong next week with something interesting to say.WHAT twisted webs we weave. A true enough statement for most of us toughing out a living in Hong Kong but even more so in the rosy world of public relations.

Following a PR debacle last week, which had a bunch of journalists being told they could not report on a Beijing symposium they had been invited to by PR firm Edelman Worldwide, the matter was taken up by the Hong Kong Journalists' Association.

The association insisted on an apology from the firm and sought assurances no such situation would be repeated in the future. To their credit, Edelman Worldwide quickly responded and came back with a comprehensive apology.

End of story, you would think, and so did we, until receiving a fax from Peter Sherwood, managing director of the like-named Daniel J. Edelman (Hong Kong) Limited.

Mr Sherwood was not a very happy man and, among other things, his letter stated: ''The hysterical allusions have placed public relations firms - in terms of usefulness - somewhere between Hong Kong shop assistants and disc jockeys. All this because Edelman Public Worldwide got something wrong in its arrangements for a Beijing press junket.'' From all of this, you may conclude Mr Sherwood had an axe to grind, and yet despite the fraternal-sounding names, the two companies have nothing to do with each other. Mr Sherwood's firm was not involved in the ''junket'', as he put it, in any shape, size or form.

We hear from the other Edelman, that is Edelman Worldwide, that similar misunderstandings have been common in the past. According to the firm's managing director, Michael Dunn, who contacted us last week, legal action is now in the balance.

Mr Dunn claimed Mr Sherwood's firm, who used to be allied through a joint venture, had a similar logo to Edelman Worldwide's and on some occasions even their company address on writing paper bore a striking resemblance, too.