Influential man 'convinced Fok brother to sign deal'
Senior figure spoke up for estate executor in talks over late tycoon's estate, court hears
An influential figure called "Mr Tung" helped 17 members of late property tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung's family reach a settlement over his multimillion-dollar estate last year, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.
Winston Poon Chung-fai SC, for third son Benjamin Fok Chun-yue, told the court at least two influential figures played a part in the negotiations.
Tung spoke to Benjamin many times, during which the latter raised his concerns about property worth 30 billion yuan (HK$38 billion) in Guangzhou's Nansha development zone, the barrister said.
Benjamin is arguing that the failure of his older brother, estate executor Ian Fok Chun-wan, to reveal an option to buy back a 25 per cent stake in the Nansha project from a charitable foundation adversely affected his interests and is grounds to remove his brother as executor.
Poon said Tung, described as a "senior, senior" person, told Benjamin that Ian claimed their family company could buy back the shares in the project.
Saying Ian had "put his cards on the table", Tung persuaded Benjamin to settle the matter, the lawyer said. Benjamin signed the agreement in August last year.
But in January, Benjamin discovered the existence of the HK$1 buyback option, which had expired in 2007.
The court heard that Henry Fok, through a family company, had held 25 per cent of the Nansha project.
In 1997, he transferred the shares to a foundation in his name, but also arranged for an option that allowed Ian to buy back the shares 10 years later.
"The senior Fok … would not do anything without a purpose," Poon said, adding that Benjamin believed his father made the share transfer not as an act of charity as Ian claimed, but to mitigate the risk of the development.
The barrister said Henry and Ian Fok were the only two who knew of the option, and that Benjamin, being in the dark, could not question Ian's reasons for not exercising the option.
According to the settlement, Poon said, Ian had to procure the benefit in any option or share deal for the estates' beneficiaries. Ian failed in his duty, he said.
Henry Fok was ranked as the world's 181st wealthiest person by Forbes magazine when he died at the age of 83 in 2006. His estate was worth an estimated HK$1.4 billion.