Benjamin Fok loses bid to oust brother, aunt in charge of multibillionaire father’s estate

Judge rules that family's previous settlement still applies and rejects one son's challenge

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 8:21pm

The High Court on Friday ruled that a son of the late tycoon and philanthropist Henry Fok Ying-tung could not reopen a case relating to his father’s multibillion estate after the feuding family members had already reached a settlement agreement.

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor ruled against Benjamin Fok Chun-yu’s bid to restore an application to remove his elder brother, Ian Fok Chun-wan, and an aunt in her late 80s, Fok Mo-kan, as executors of the estate.

The judge approved an application by Ian to halt Benjamin’s motion, in light of the settlement agreement they reached in August 2012, which is legally binding to the 31 family members of the tycoon, who had 13 children with three wives. The estate’s beneficiaries include 15 other relatives.

Benjamin and Ian, both businessmen, are from Henry Fok's first family, and have another brother, Timothy (a former lawmaker), and two sisters.

Benjamin applied to restore his application in April last year, saying he would no longer act on the settlement because Ian and Timothy had refused to honour a clause of the settlement relating to a 30 billion yuan (HK$38 billion) expanse of land in a project in Nansha, where Henry Fok has ancestral roots.

Benjamin, who already received HK$279 million before his latest contest, wanted Ian and his aunt to be replaced by former Court of Appeal judge Anthony Rogers.

Henry Fok died of cancer in 2006, leaving an estimated HK$1.4 billion in assets plus shares in Henry Fok Estates. In the year he died, Forbes estimated his fortune at US$3.7 billion.

His built his wealth on shrewd investments on the mainland and even rose to become a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference.

Ian’s motion for a temporary stay on Benjamin’s filing was supported Timothy, their mother, and members of the second and third families.

“On the evidence before me, I have no doubt whatsoever that Ben is not entitled to [regard the settlement agreement as being discharged or alternatively rescinded against Ian and Tim only],” the judge wrote.

“The settlement agreement is still afoot, binding on all the 31 contracting parties,” the judge said. “The present action … beyond doubt ought not to go on. A stay is in order.”

The judge ordered that the parties should report to the court in writing within three months in relation to the progress of the settlement agreement.