Peter Woo makes way for new chairman

Managing director and son Douglas Woo to take over at Wheelock in January

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 4:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 5:03am

Peter Woo Kwong-ching is stepping down as chairman of conglomerate Wheelock and Co to make way for a new generation of leadership.

His son, Douglas Woo Chun-kuen, who became the managing director on July 1, had been elected the new chairman with effect from January 1 next year, Wheelock announced yesterday.

The appointment caught some analysts by surprise.

"The transition process is a bit faster than expected," said Kenny Tang Sing-hing, a general manager at AMTD Financial Planning. "Peter Woo is not old [as a chairman]. He may have other plans."

Tang said the move could fuel speculation about a future career in politics for Woo.

Woo, 67, launched a failed bid to become the city's first chief executive in 1997. Since then, he has repeatedly ruled himself out of future chief executive elections when asked by reporters.

Woo would remain on the company's board, with the new title of "senior director", Wheelock said.

After the company's annual general meeting in June, Woo said: "I was given the opportunity by [the late shipping magnate] Pao Yue-kong 30 years ago when I was 36 years old. I think it is the right time to give [Douglas] the opportunity."

He first disclosed his succession plan last year, with daughter Jennifer Woo Chun-en appointed to oversee luxury retailer Lane Crawford and Douglas put in charge of the property business.

Douglas Woo, 35, a former analyst at investment bank UBS, studied at Winchester College in Britain and graduated from Princeton University in the United States with a degree in architecture. He followed that up with a master of business administration degree awarded jointly by the HKUST Business School and the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University in 2010.

Wheelock's aggressive acquisition of land in Hong Kong recently has attracted a deal of market attention.

The company has also seen a strong sales response at the Austin, a joint residential development with New World Development above the Austin MTR Station, following the adoption of an aggressive pricing strategy in a slow residential market.