Entrepreneur Allan Zeman revealed yesterday it was the government that was forcing him out as Ocean Park chairman.
"I found out about a month ago," the flamboyant entrepreneur said. "Of course, at that time I felt kind of angry for a while because I hadn't discussed it with the government beforehand."
Zeman, who made his name establishing the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district, said he was sure the government knew he wanted to continue in the post he had occupied for 11 years.
He will be succeeded by his deputy, Leo Kung Lin-cheng, on Monday. Kung, deputy chairman since 2003, is a banker and serves on several public bodies.
During Zeman's chairmanship, the number of visitors rose to 7.73 million last year from 2.95 million in 2003, while a HK$4 million deficit in 2003, the year Sars struck, was turned into a HK$127.2 million surplus.
He believed he lost the job due to a government guideline limiting holders of positions on statutory bodies to six-year terms.
"But you know, when you have a winning combination in business, you don't break the combination," he said.
Zeman does not know who made the decision that he must leave. Asked if it had anything to do with his decision to back Henry Tang Ying-yen in the chief executive election, he replied: "I don't really think it was a political decision. Ocean Park is not political and I would hope that it is not a political decision."
The government has suggested Zeman become an adviser to the theme park, a role Zeman said he was happy to take up. But this will be subject to a decision by the park's board.
Commenting on reports that he may be named chairman of the board of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Zeman said he had not been approached, but if was he would need to think about it because it was a challenging role.
He said he had worked with Kung for years and although Kung had a different management style, Zeman said they had worked well together.
Last week, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung did not answer directly when asked why Zeman was leaving, saying only that there was a suitable replacement. So's office had nothing to add yesterday.