Yung Kee sons plan to open new restaurant after judge's ruling

As application to wind up company is rejected, brothers announce plans for an establishment to compete with the famous roast goose brand

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 3:45am

Sons of late Yung Kee shareholder Kinsen Kam Kwan-sing announced plans yesterday to open a restaurant to compete with the famed establishment now run by a rival branch of the family.

The brothers announced their intentions after a High Court judge, in a written judgment, dismissed their father's petition to wind up the company that runs the famed roast goose restaurant in Central.

Kinsen's estate must now pay legal costs, estimated at about HK$30 million, to his brother, Ronald Kam Kwan-lai, after the judge, Mr Justice Jonathan Harris, ruled against Kinsen's application on a technical point.

He noted that Yung Kee Holdings, an investment vehicle, was an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands that had no business activities in Hong Kong.

"If I had not dismissed the petition for want of jurisdiction, I would have found that the petitioner had been unfairly prejudiced by [Ronald Kam] Kwan-lai's conduct, and ordered that Kwan-lai purchase the petitioner's [shares]," wrote the judge.

He also noted: "I hope that, notwithstanding my decision to dismiss the petition, the estate of the late petitioner [Kinsen] and Kwan-lai are able to find an amicable solution to the differences that caused the unfortunate breakdown in the relationship between the two brothers."

Ronald Kam's son, Carrel Kam Lin-wang, was also criticised by the judge, who noted that Kinsen's nephew was "frequently gratuitously rude" to his uncle, who died on October 5 aged 66. Kinsen, who was virtually stripped of his power, petitioned the court in 2010 to have the holding company wound up unless Ronald bought his 45 per cent stake or sold him his own 55 per cent share.

Expressing their regret at the ruling, Kinsen's son Kelvin Kam Shung-hin said: "Yung Kee has been there for 70 years. It was founded by my grandfather and made an international reputation by selling roast food.

"My father felt sorry … that he had to leave the place where he had worked since he was young."

Kelvin added: "It is our hope and my father's wish that Yung Kee's business will go on and flourish.

"At the end of the day, it is a family business. We have always wanted peace. But as the judge has found, my father had been bullied by [my uncle's family]."

Kelvin and his brother Hardy Kam Shun-yuen said they had won huge support from existing Yung Kee staff and customers to set up a restaurant in "healthy competition" to Yung Kee.

They said they would continue talks with Ronald, hoping to reach a "reasonable price and conditions" for selling his father's 45 per cent stake to him, as suggested by the judge.

The brothers would not say whether they would sell their shares to people outside the Kam family if a deal was not possible.

Central, where Yung Kee is located in Wyndham Street, is one area being considered for the new restaurant, the brothers said.

Kelvin said there would be no legal issue about the Yung Kee trademark, because the new restaurant would not include the name. Meanwhile, Hardy dismissed concerns of a possible dispute over the ownership of the roast goose recipe.

He said copyrights did not cover cooking styles and expertise and that there were other famous roast goose dishes in Hong Kong. He would not reveal at the moment whether they had plans to ask existing Yung Kee staff to join the new restaurant.

The brothers said they would quit their Yung Kee jobs soon and would talk to lawyers before deciding whether to file an appeal.

Ronald Kam said after the judgment: "I have been down since the death of my brother. We had been brothers for more than 60 years, and partners over 40 years. I have always hoped that we can run legacy founded by [my father] together. I wish the court case had never happened."

Despite the court's finding, Ronald said he had "absolutely not" treated his late brother disrespectfully or unfairly.

On whether they would buy Kinsen's 45 per cent share, his son, Carrel, said: "It will be purely a business decision."

Additional reporting by Thomas Chan