Sun Hung Kai Properties

Driving forces behind a multibillion-dollar company

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am

Until they were arrested yesterday, the Kwok brothers were primarily known as hardworking visionaries who helped build Sun Hung Kai into one of the biggest property developers in Hong Kong.

Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 59, and his younger brother Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 58 - both joint chairmen and managing directors of SHKP - were arrested by the ICAC for suspected corruption yesterday, 10 days after it had detained the executive director, Thomas Chan Kui-yuen.

'The atmosphere is very tense here,' said one employee, who asked not to be named. 'This morning I got a call from a section head who asked if we have any press conferences today. 'If there's one, please cancel it,' they said. Hours later, we saw our boss inside a car driving into the ICAC headquarters on the TV news.'

The Kwoks are Hong Kong's second-richest family, according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth of US$18.3 billion.

Thomas Kwok is responsible for projects and development, as well as sales, while Raymond is head of financing and leasing. They became joint chairmen of the property empire after their mother, Kwong Siu-hing, the 82-year-old matriarch of the Kwok family, retired in December.

'Thomas is a good boss but very demanding,' said an employee. 'We are not surprised if we see him on a site inspection on the weekend. Sometimes he brings his mother.'

Raymond Kwok is also known as a workaholic. 'We get e-mails from [Raymond] at odd hours, such as at 1am or 6am about updating the latest progress of a project development,' one SHKP executive said.

Thomas Kwok makes regular visits to SHKP property owners in different housing projects to see if there is more room for improvement.

'No research reports are better than putting yourself inside the homes of our residents,' he said after visiting two families at Scenic View in Ngau Chi Wan. He also visited tenants at the group's shopping centres and office projects.

'That kind of on-the-spot feeling is the best. Sometimes I will knock on doors at one of our projects without advance notice. But it may take five to six tries before owners allow me in.'

He said the company aimed to produce luxury homes that would be the equivalent of Rolls-Royces and Mercedes-Benz in the car sector, while mass residential projects should be similar to Toyota's Lexus.

To strive to become the city's top developer, he also set up a quality checking system to ensure the projects had 'no defects' when the new flats were handed over to buyers.

'We receive some kind of bonus if a project received no complaints from buyers after they got the keys,' said a source in the project department. It is a big incentive to raise the standard of the project quality.'

It is not unusual for the developer to pitch their new residential projects, even in inferior locations such as Yuen Long and Tseung Kwan O, at record prices.

'Whenever SHKP has a new project put on sale, it will set a benchmark in that area,' said Pang Shui- kee, the managing director of surveyor SK Pang. 'Given its higher quality compared with rival developers, lots of home buyers and investors are willing to pay a big premium for their flats, particularly luxury homes.'

Thomas Kwok, a Christian, was responsible for The Noah's Ark project on Ma Wan, which reflects his evangelical Christian faith.

During the 1990s, he set up a church on the 75th-floor pyramid atrium at the top of Sun Hung Kai's Central Plaza office complex.

The Noah's Ark is part of a massive residential project, Ma Wan Park, which comprises 5,289 units and required a total investment of more than HK$10 billion.

'Thomas spent a lot of effort turning Ma Wan island from a small fishing village into today's luxury residential development,' said another source. 'The man-made private beach in Man Wan is his idea.

'It gives the island more of a resort-type feeling and that's the drawcard for the project.'

Thomas Kwok has been with the group for 34 years. He is also a member of the executive committee of The Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong and a government appointed member of the Commission on Strategic Development.

In 2007, he was awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star for his distinguished community service.

He holds a master's degree in business administration from The London Business School, University of London, and a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Imperial College, University of London.

The company made headlines after the clash among the Kwok brothers surfaced in February 2008. SHKP announced that Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, the eldest brother, would take temporary leave of absence as chairman for personal reasons. In May, Kwong Siu-hing, the then 79-year-old matriarch of the Kwok family, replaced Walter Kwok, her eldest son, as chair of Sun Hung Kai Properties. Kwong retired in December and the board appointed Thomas Kwok and brother Raymond Kwok as joint chairmen. Their roles as managing directors and executive directors remain unchanged.

Key dates

Sept 29, 1997

Walter Kwok Ping-sheung kidnapped by 'Big Spender' Cheung Tze-keung. He is freed on October 4.

Jan, 2008

Walter Kwok is allegedly diagnosed by Stanford psychiatrist Jose Maldonado with bipolar affective disorder.

Feb 18, 2008

SHKP announces Walter Kwok will take a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons, amid reports of disagreements between the brothers.

Apr, 2008

Walter Kwok consults four top Hong Kong medical experts who clear him of mental problems.

May 21, 2008

Walter Kwok sues brothers for defamation.

May 27, 2008

Walter Kwok is demoted to non-executive director and his mother Kwong Siu-hing replaces him as chairman after he loses a legal battle to stop the board discussing his ousting.

Oct 4, 2010

Walter Kwok is removed as a beneficiary under a reorganisation of the family trust that holds a controlling stake in SHKP.

Mar 19, 2012

ICAC arrests SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen for suspected bribery and SHKP sets up a committee to work with the ICAC investigation.

Mar 23, 2012

Thomas Chan Kui-yuen returns to work.

Mar 29, 2012

SHKP joint chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen are arrested by the ICAC. Shares in the group's companies - SHKP, Sunevision and SmarTone - are suspended from trading.