A very Christian comeback

After suffering the death of his son, former Midland executive Albert Wong Kam-hong is now building a Noah's Ark in the Philippines

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 3:34am

Albert Wong Kam-hong is bouncing back from tragedy in his own unique way.

The 50-year-old former deputy chairman of Midland Holdings is set to soon emerge from a one-year self-imposed hibernation to build a Noah's Ark, complete with animals, in the central Philippines.

He also plans to provide strategic advisory services to Hong Kong-listed firms and companies from mainland China seeking a listing on the city's stock market.

His re-emergence from what he has described as one of the darkest chapters in his life, including the death of his only child, is also likely to raise eyebrows, particularly his venture in the Philippines.

Wong plans to build the Ark in the middle of a lake that is part of a five-hectare plot of land he and his Filipino wife purchased on the island of Guimaras. Atop a hilly portion of the site, he plans to build his dream two-storey mansion that will provide him and his wife, as well as guests from Hong Kong and the Philippines, a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.

The plot, equivalent to 10 football fields, comes with two lakes and a beach. The Ark will be set in the biggest lake with an area of 1.5 hectares or more than 161,000 square feet.

"When I first visited the site, I saw a huge cross atop a hill across from my estate where I wish to build my dream house. I couldn't help but regard it as a gift from God," said Wong.

"I am a Christian and I thought that a huge cross on a hill near my mansion, together with a nearby Noah's Ark in the middle of a lake set amid a landscaped park, will serve the dual purpose of a place of worship and leisure," he said.

"I lost my son to cancer last year and I will also build a landscaped park called TC [Tak Chai] Garden in memory of my son, Timothy Wong Wai-tak."

The past year had been particularly difficult for him, not only because of the loss of his son.

In February last year, the then-deputy chairman of Midland Holdings, was embroiled in an alleged plot to orchestrate a protest of 200 agents who demanded full payment of their commissions, and gain the chairmanship of the company from Freddy Wong Kin-yip.

He denied the assertions, but the mass action apparently damaged his relations with Midland's management. Three months later, he stepped down from his post, fuelling speculation that he lost a major boardroom battle.

Unknown to many, he was battling to save his son's life at the same time that he was allegedly after the top post at Midland.

Wong first attracted media attention in October 2010 when he staged an astonishing display of his unusual skill in tai chi.

He was deputy managing director at Midland at the time. Without laying a finger on a volunteer who stood in the middle of a crowd, Wong threw him off balance several feet away from him, using what he described as his arsenal of "internal energy or power".

In another public display of his inner physical strength derived from his tai chi practice, he broke a piece of wood and a two and a half feet long iron ruler.

In sharp contrast to these public demonstrations of his physical prowess, the loss of his son and his abrupt departure from Midland have drained him psychologically and emotionally, prompting him to build the holiday home and the Ark for leisure.

"The proposed Noah's Ark will accommodate around 10 people for having tea or fishing. I will also build a bamboo hut in the second lake as a tai chi learning centre."

Given the island's lack of recreation facilities, he also plans to include a football field next to a man-made beach.

The local government in the area supports the project as it will help attract tourists to the island, well known for its luscious export-quality mangoes, while providing residents of the island and nearby provinces with a leisure and entertainment complex, Wong said.

"My resort will also enable me to entertain my business clients in Hong Kong and China. And it will serve as a venue for activities of members of the Scout Association of Hong Kong and even for fellowship gatherings through my church here," he said.

The project is slated for completion in the middle of next year.

He declined to disclose the total development cost but said "it is within my affordability."

A year after making a clean break from Midland, Wong said he is ready to get back to providing strategic financial advisory services.

"I have restarted the operations of my firm Traffic Light Management Consultancy which I founded 10 years ago. Before joining Midland Holdings as a consultant in 2001, I functioned as a corporate 'doctor' in the sense that I helped Hong Kong-listed companies to improve their earning ability and map out their strategic plans. I'm now in talks with various companies which plan to launch initial public offerings in Hong Kong," he said.