James Thompson, the logistics chief who enjoys giving back
For James Thompson, founder and chairman of global mobility and logistics company Crown Worldwide Group, managing time is one of life’s biggest challenges.
“One of the things I learned very early on is that I can’t do everything myself, so you need to have dependable people with you who can take on some of the jobs that you’d want to do,” says the long-time Hong Kong resident, who also represents the city abroad in trade matters and heads numerous charities.
A New Jersey native, Thompson has been travelling since childhood when his father was in the navy.
He started Crown in Japan in 1965 and moved the headquarters to Hong Kong in the mid-1970s. The company now has a presence in 60 countries.
Over the years, Thompson has been active with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the ICAC Advisory Committee on Corruption, the Hong Kong Forum, and served two terms as chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce. The former board member of Ocean Park has also been awarded the Gold Bauhinia Star for distinguished service to Hong Kong.
His busy schedule has forced Thompson to multitask. “I try to combine a couple of things on every trip – whether it’s for business or I’m going to a function to promote Hong Kong overseas,” he says. “I also catch up with friends at social functions. I don’t actually go to that many lunches – I tend to use the time to catch up with work – so I might have lunch in the office or just skip it.”
One thing Thompson is sure to make time for is mentoring university students. “They come to the office and we talk for an hour and I will buy them lunch. I really enjoy that,” he says. “I do have to balance it because there are a lot of mentees, but that gives me a bit of a break from the more intense work.”
It’s evident that Thompson enjoys giving back and, with his wife, is involved in several charities. One close to his heart is hospice care. “I chair the Hike for Hospice every year, which is kind of a fun event. My wife chairs the Christmas carol concert every year, which is also great for hospice.”
Changing Young Lives, a Hong Kong-based charity that helps underprivileged children, and his own project building schools and libraries in Cambodia, are two more charities he makes time for.
The father of two – whose children work for Crown in New York and Beijing – oversees the building projects in Cambodia himself to make sure the locations are suitable and that they are built properly.
Thompson’s downtime is usually spent reading books and answering e-mails, but he is looking to a more relaxed future. “We’re just buying an estate in Ireland that couldn’t be more opposite than Hong Kong,” he says.
“I’ve always lived in busy cities but I am really looking forward to this country life – maybe doing a bit of fishing, riding horses, things I haven’t done much of in my life.”