David Roberts was the Martin Sorrell of architecture: like the WPP ad mogul, Roberts was always at another early-morning meeting on another continent when you turned your back. Now the passionate Welshman (via the British West Midlands and Tasmania) and Stanley resident has stepped down as chief executive of Aedas, the Hong Kong and British-owned architecture practice.
"David worked hard for 24 years to build Aedas from a small company to its current global reach and stature," said Keith Griffiths, Aedas's chairman. Roberts, a stalwart of the Hong Kong Club, who is 50 this year, recently overcame a battle with cancer. He will remain an adviser to the board at Aedas, which is behind the new West Kowloon terminus, and is succeeded by David Bromberg, the practice's star designer. Roberts's second home and yacht charter business (as well as an Italian restaurant and deli) in Phuket will ensure his frequent flyer status.
Cable TV gives refund shock
Cable TV Hong Kong has come under fire with respect to its contract arrangements. A reader tells us he had a contract for which he paid HK$350 a month. This expired in March while he was away on holiday. He was unaware of this until he received a further bill for HK$700. After speaking to Cable TV it transpired it had started a new "contract'" without consulting our reader and, because he hadn't negotiated a "special price", had set the rate at HK$700.
Irritated by the company's high-handed practices, our reader said he wanted to terminate the service. However, to do this, Cable TV said, he would have to give a month's notice and pay a further HK$700, even though our reader had not entered into a contract. After Lai See discussed the matter with Cable TV, the company swiftly got back to our reader, offered a fulsome apology, and has undertaken to refund the whole of the overcharged amount by the end of the month. The company offered another contract at the old rate of HK$350. This was, you may be unsurprised to hear, declined by our reader, as he said he had lost confidence in the company on account of its "sharp practices".
Police Report's parking fantasy
Readers will by now be aware of our interest in illegal parking. So it was with some interest that we watched last Sunday's Police Report - Illegal Parking Episode 1. Superintendent John Cameron introduced the programme by observing that Hong Kong's roads were crowded, which meant "road space was at a premium and illegally parked vehicles would obstruct, endanger and cause a nuisance to everyone."
But the so-called case reconstruction that followed was pure fantasy. A pretty girl parks her car on a double yellow line in Ice House Street. Before she leaves the car, a police officer emerges and tells her she can't park there and asks her to move on. She declines, and he gives her a ticket.
In fact, the police usually walk past these situations without taking action, and rarely give a ticket if the driver is present. But Police Report moves deeper into unreality when the girl decides that since she has already been ticketed, she'll go shopping, despite the officer's warning that her car will be towed away. She flounces off and shortly afterwards a tow truck appears and removes the car. Cameron winds up with: "Let's work together to keep Hong Kong's traffic moving in a safe and smooth manner." It can be seen at bit.ly/ZxCoFI. We can't wait for episode 2.
Total joins dodgy top 10
With Total agreeing to pay US$398.2 million to settle criminal and civil allegations in the United States that it paid bribes to win oil and gas contracts in Iran, this means that three of the top 10 Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases are French. Total is now fourth on the list of payments, according to the FCPA blog, which keeps a running total. It joins Technip (US$338 million, 2010) which lies 6th, along with Alcatel-Lucent in ninth position, which paid a fine of US$137 million in 2010.
The list is headed by the German company Siemens, which paid US$800 million in 2011. There is only one US company, KBR/Halliburton, in the top 10, which has raised a few eyebrows, with some people wondering if the US Department of Justice is taking it easy on US companies while going after the dodgy foreigners.