New chief a far cry from club's early days

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 1995, 12:00am

IF the first stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club had known a Chinese would one day head their institution, they would probably have closed it down there and then.

The early years of the club, which started as a racing committee in 1841, were a very British affair.

When the Hong Kong Jockey Club was formed in 1884, following a meeting at the old City Hall, its 34 founding members were all British.

The Jardine family and prominent British Hong Jardine Matheson were highly involved.

The first elected Board of Stewards comprised British businessmen and legislative councillors while many of the riders came from the officer ranks of the British Army stationed in the territory.

It was not until 1926 that the club changed its rules to admit Chinese owners for the first time.

The first Chinese owners and riders made an appearance two years later.

The early days saw all the work of the 34 founding fathers carried out voluntarily.

Today, with more than 18,000 members and 15,000 employees, Mr Wong will be well compensated as the Club's first Chinese chief executive. He will receive a package estimated at $5 million per year.

Mr Wong will inherit a club which last year had cash and stock reserves of $4 billion and a turnover of $73 billion - twice the size of Hong Kong's largest commercial company Hongkong Telecom - and a far cry from the $10,889 it started with 111 years ago.