Widow loses appeal in feud over Hong Kong's famous Yung Kee restaurant

Family row over famous roast goose restaurant not a matter for Hong Kong courts, judges rule, as holding company is not registered in the city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 3:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 3:15am

The widow of a shareholder in the famous Yung Kee roast goose restaurant has lost her appeal against a court's decision to dismiss a bid to wind up its holding company.

The Court of Appeal also overturned a lower court judge's ruling that shareholder Ronald Kam Kwan-lai and his family ran the business in a way "unfairly prejudicial" to his brother and fellow shareholder Kinsen Kam Kwan-sing, leaving that question open.

Kinsen's wife, Leung Sui-kwan, continued the fight after her husband died days before the Court of First Instance dismissed the bid to wind up Yung Kee Holdings in October 2012.

Ronald Kam's daughter welcomed the ruling, while Kinsen's son said his side of the family would soon open a rival Chinese cuisine restaurant.

The court battle revolved around a struggle between the brothers after their father Kam Shui-fai died in 2004. Ronald took his shareholding from 35 per cent to 55 per cent by taking over a sibling's shares. He appointed his son as one of three directors alongside the brothers, leading to accusations from Kinsen that he was excluded from the management of the restaurant in Wellington Street, Central.

Kinsen filed a petition seeking to either have Ronald buy his shares or for the company to be wound up.

Court of First Instance judge Mr Justice Jonathan Harris ruled that the court had no power to wind up the holding company as it was registered in the British Virgin Islands and had not established a place of business in Hong Kong. Had it not been for that point, Harris said, he would have ordered Ronald to buy the shares.

The three appeal court judges upheld the decision not to wind up the company and left open the question of whether there was prejudicial conduct due to lack of evidence.

"We see no justification for the petitioner not to take the dispute to the courts of the place of incorporation," they wrote.

Speaking after the hearing, Ronald's daughter Yvonne Kam said the judgment "clears our name", adding: "We did not treat my uncle unfairly."

Kinsen's younger son, Hardy Kam Shun-yuen, said his family was "disappointed" and would consider a further appeal.

"It was heartbreaking that the matter ended up in court. But my father had no choice," he said. He and his brother were renovating a Wan Chai site for their restaurant.