Nan Fung

A father who had the faith to pass the baton

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 10:49am

Among Vivien Chen Wai-wai's treasured possessions is a photo of herself and her father, Chen Din-hwa, taken by the South China Morning Post 20 years ago. The photo shows the two smiling at each other during bidding for a site at a government land auction.

The moment was one of the happiest in her 29-year working relationship with her father, Vivien Chen says.

Chen Din-hwa, who handed over the helm of the Nan Fung Group that he founded to his younger daughter in 2009, is a devout Buddhist.

When you enter the group's headquarters at Nan Fung Tower in Sheung Wan, you will find leaflets and brochures about Buddhism in the reception areas.

Her father was an active philanthropist who set up the DH Chen Foundation, which supports causes in medicine, education, welfare as well as Buddhism. But he was also business-savvy.

'My father was good at capturing opportunities. He taught me about risk management, how to assess the risk and how to capture the right moment,' Chen said.

Now her children have begun to be involved in the family business. 'Their performances are so far so good,' Chen said, sharing a laugh with her daughter, Karen Cheung, her executive assistant.

'They complained to me that I was strict when they were small. Now, I have three grandchildren and they have to go through what I did before. My dad was also strict when I was small.

'But they are well-behaved, which is a blessing. I'm sure they will bring new ideas to the company.'

Chen's relationship with her mother, Yang Foo-oi, has been troubled, however, and has been in the media spotlight since November, when Yang filed for damages and other compensation against her daughter.

The dispute between Yang and her daughter is over the distribution of Chen's assets to Yang, Wai-wai, and his eldest daughter Angela.

'None of it has affected the management or decision-making of the company,' Chen said.

On the subject of soaring property prices and complaints from many young people that they cannot afford to buy a home, Chen is sympathetic but firm in her views.

'Young people should try their best to one day own a flat, but should not be overly hasty,' she said.

'Government and businesspeople hope to satisfy everyone - but that's impossible.'