'This is not your TV script': Judge scolds sushi boss Ricky Cheng
Restaurateur Ricky Cheng is chided by a High Court judge for making boastful statements as he fights legal battle with business partners
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The founder of Hong Kong's Itamae Sushi chain pretended to be a Japanese man at Tokyo's famed Tsukiji fish market auction in 2008 to successfully bid on the most prized bluefin tuna of the year, the High Court heard yesterday.
The account of how Ricky Cheng Wai-tao, sometimes known as Ricky San, or "Mr Ricky" in Japanese, came to own the 152kg fish was revealed during his testimony in the Court of First Instance, where he is being sued over a business dispute.
Jason Poon Ka-man and the Fine Elite Group, two shareholders of Itamae, have filed lawsuits claiming Cheng had failed to put shares into a holding company in order to distribute them to various parties in accordance with an earlier agreement.
Poon and Cheng are also partners in the Hong Kong-listed Ajisen Ramen Group.
Cheng, a frequent guest on TV programmes, was criticised by the judge and the plaintiff's lawyers for grandstanding, and using his prepared statement to flaunt his successful career. "This is a court statement and not your TV script," said Madam Justice Mimmie Chan Mei-lan, who called Cheng's statement "pretty offensive".
Cheng became the first non-Japanese to claim top prize at the annual Tsukiji auction after he paid HK$430,000 for a tuna.
Cheng's method of secrecy was seized on by Poon's lawyers as showing this was a part of Cheng's business style. Cheng denied the accusation and said it was a tactic he would use only in an auction.
In his court statement, Cheng said that at 39, he was younger than Canto-pop singer Aaron Kwok Fu-shing. Cheng then drew laughter from the public gallery after he claimed to have worn clothes by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake but now preferred Armani. He also mentioned other pop stars which Poon's lawyers deemed irrelevant to the case.
"You like to talk about something you take pride in … but you've avoided all the important matters," said Paul Shieh SC, for Poon, a claim that Cheng also denied.
The court heard that when the second Itamae branch was set up in Causeway Bay in 2005, the eatery had sales of HK$1.7 million in the first month and generated HK$500,000 in profit. The hearing continues today.