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  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:15pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 4:19am

The importance of being the chairman's wife

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

It may not be so well known that one of the curiosities of a mainland IPO is that the chairman's wife will frequently become the vice-president of a sub-branch of the local bank. The chairman of a Hubei company that went public cheerfully told stcn.com that listing on the stock exchange was the means to a huge change in lifestyle for the chairman. His status rises, he told the Chinese website, and he becomes an important guest of the local government. "Going public brings both fame and money. I have several friends and clients, whose situation is like mine. Their wives all become VP of a sub-branch, though they know nothing about banks," he said. Is this because they can introduce new customers to the bank?

"They have us, that's enough," responded the entrepreneur. He added that following an IPO, a company would have an additional 500 million to two billion yuan in cash. That apparently enables you to name a VP. He goes on to say that before his company was listed, he had to beg the bank for loans but afterwards the bank's senior officials came to his office to beg for business. They offer all kinds of favours: "VP for the wife, jobs for the children or low interest loans." He says the position gives the wives face when they hand out their business cards while socialising with their husbands.
 

A very Chinese Birkin

Mo Yuk-ping, the long-time girlfriend of the jailed, former Shanghai Land chairman Chau Ching-ngai, has caused a stir on the internet. Mo posted a picture on Weibo of her custom-made Hermès Birkin bag. The custom element in her case, as our picture shows, were the embossed stars of the mainland's national flag.

"It was so kind of Mr. Pascale Mussard, the global Art Director of Hermès. I received this custom-made Christmas gift from him earlier than expected. It's full of Chinese characteristics. The Five-Starred Red Flag is always waving in my heart!" she wrote. According to the website Offbeat China, the post went viral with almost 20,000 reposts and 4,000 comments. Most made fun of the bag, describing it as ugly. "If this is true, Hermès' image in my heart is forever destroyed," was one comment on Weibo. Others pointed out that Pascale Mussard isn't a Mr., she is a descendant of founder Thierry Hermès. Another drew attention to a more serious problem Mo could face in that her embossed bag may have breached China's National Flag Law which details how to use and how not to use the flag. She is no stranger to breaking the law having spent several years in a Hong Kong prison for share manipulation and fraud.
 

Simon Murray on Victor Li

We were interested to read comments by Simon Murray in a piece Reuters wrote recently about Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, heir apparent to Li Ka-shing's business empire. Murray worked for the elder Li for 10 years as group managing director of Hutchison Whampoa. He now runs a number of companies, is chairman of commodities giant Glencore, and still sits on the Cheung Kong board. On Victor, Murray had this to say: "He is a chip off the block - his father has passed to him everything that he knows about the business." But Murray adds, "However, there is something else that his father has that Victor has to develop, the character of his father, which includes characteristics like humility, the ability to trust."
 

East meets West at LME

Anyone in any doubt as to whether there would be changes at the London Metal Exchange in the hands of its new owner our own HKEx will have been swiftly disabused by CEO Charles Li's performance. At a glamorous bash at London's Grosvenor Hotel, Li rather stole the show from guest speaker Peter Mandelson, when he took to the floor with an impromptu speech. Halfway through his speech, Li shifted from English to Mandarin, which elicited some applause from the few tables of Chinese traders, including Bank of China's LME trading team. Many of the old timers were less than amused, the Financial Times reports. "If there was a single moment when it dawned upon the LME's tightknit, tradition-loving community that they had ceded control of the 135-year-old exchange, this was it."

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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