Court upholds Bossini heir's right to control HK$330m family fund

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 July, 2011, 12:00am


The Court of Appeal yesterday granted the son of the late founder of the Bossini clothing label total authority over a HK$330 million fund left to the tycoon's descendants.

Though no will exists, a 'letter of wishes' specified in what situations the inheritance left by textiles tycoon Law Ting-pong should be distributed - for example, to family members who were high academic achievers but in need of loans or sponsorship.

However, it named second son Law Shuk-hoi the 'administrator' of these assets, to distribute them as he saw fit, 'without the need to give any reason'.

In a 2-1 judgment, the court ruled that Law Shuk-hoi was obliged to consider from time to time whether to distribute the assets but was not obliged to actually grant them. That overturned a Court of First Instance ruling from last July.

The debate centred on whether he had a 'mere power' - absolute authority to distribute the assets - or a 'trust power' , meaning he had to distribute the assets but could decide when and how.

Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching and Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling decided on the former, because the criteria laid down to get the inheritance meant none of the descendants was actually entitled to it.

Should no eligible descendants emerge the assets would go to a trust belonging to the estate of the deceased.

Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau, dissenting, said Law Shuk-hoi was designated to carry out his father's wishes, and had 'no choice' but to follow the criteria, regardless of whether he himself wanted to distribute the money.

'He is under an obligation to carry out the deceased's intention,' he said in the written judgment, adding that Shuk-hoi's full administrative power 'merely means that he is not required to consult others in his task.'

Elsewhere in his judgment Cheung noted: 'The task imposed on the plaintiff would be meaningless and the deceased's intention frustrated if, despite making the inquiry and satisfying himself that the conditions have been met, he could simply decide not to distribute.'

Law Ting-pong died in 1996, aged 86, leaving HK$1 billion split into three categories. Other than the 'rainy-day fund' being contested, a third was for another, estranged son - 'so as to compensate for my fault in the past in failing to discharge my paternal duties,' he wrote - and another third was set aside for charity. He was survived by 28 descendants, including eight children.