Lawyers for the feuding brothers who run the celebrated Fook Lam Moon restaurants have revealed for the first time that the dispute at the centre of their three lawsuits concerns properties.
Shareholder and director Chui Pui-kun, the fifth son of restaurant founder Chui Fuk-chuen, and his younger brother, seventh son Chui Wai-kwan, have both filed petitions to buy out the other's shares in the holding companies of the restaurants.
In a third lawsuit, Chui Pui-kun is suing his younger brother for defamation over statements he made in circulars that were sent to shareholders.
In the Court of First Instance yesterday, Benjamin Yu SC, for the older brother, said the issues overlapping in the three cases were the brothers' disputes over the sale of a property in Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, and a proposal to obtain a banking facility of HK$50 million for the property in Johnston Road that houses the Wan Chai restaurant.
In filing petitions to buy out one another's shares, both brothers alleged the companies' affairs had been conducted in a manner prejudicial to their own interests.
Fook Lam Moon, with one restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui and one in Wan Chai, has earned a reputation for serving fine Chinese cuisine, attracting celebrities and wealthy businesspeople. Tycoons including Joseph Lau Luen-hung, Lee Shau-kee and Li Ka-shing are frequent patrons.
The family in-fighting began with the defamation lawsuit, which was brought against the younger brother in November 2009.
The court ruled in January that Chui Pui-kun was entitled to inspect minutes of the companies' board meetings - a move that Chui Wai-kwan had opposed.
Yu and Jat Sew-tong SC, lawyer for the younger brother, disputed whether the cases should be heard together and the order in which they should be heard.
The defamation case will be heard with a jury, which Jat said is a 'procedural nightmare'.
'If the defamation case is not resolved, [the parties] can't see what's right or wrong,' Yu said, adding that it was no less important than the petition cases. However, Jat disagreed, arguing the length of the defamation trial with jury could be shortened if the petition cases were dealt with first.
Yu said that issues common to the petition and defamation cases were marginal, while Jat argued that the overlapping was substantial.
Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor did not rule on the matter yesterday and adjourned the case to June 10. He said that the schedules of bilingual judges in the Court of First Instance were busy and a trial would not be heard before June next year.