Property developer Vincent Lo Hong-sui is taking over as chairman of the Airport Authority after Marvin Cheung Kin-tung abruptly quit citing his health.
But in an unusual move, Lo will serve for one year only before swapping jobs with Trade Development Council chairman Jack So Chak-kwong, the government announced yesterday.
The news has led to speculation that a high-profile row between Lo and Cheung over a commercial project at the airport last year soured relations between the Shui On Group chief and colleagues. It has also sparked concerns that long-term planning could suffer at a time when the authority is planning a third runway at Chek Lap Kok.
Cheung's original three-year term had been due to expire today, but his tenure was extended for another year in October. However, in a statement yesterday, he said: "It is with great regret that I have decided to retire as chairman. This was a difficult decision … made primarily due to … health considerations."
The government announced that Lo would take over from tomorrow, while So would extend his stay at the TDC for eight months after his term expires in September. The two will swap jobs on June 1 next year.
Cheung and Lo clashed in November, when the latter tendered his resignation as chairman of the authority's infrastructural planning committee. Lo wanted the site of a golf course to be turned into a mall and hotel complex, while Cheung insisted it must also house a depot for an electric train. They later settled their differences, but one board member said the row had hit Lo's chances of taking the job.
"The authority needs someone familiar with its operation to succeed [Cheung]. Vincent is a candidate because he is an experienced board member, but he has an unhappy past with others on the board," the member, who declined to be named, said.
Outgoing board member Miriam Lau Kin-yee was intrigued by the manoeuvre, saying: "I don't understand why Lo will substitute as chairman for only one year. He won't be able to launch long-term work."
Lo added to the intrigue with a statement thanking the government for appointing him to the TDC job - but without a word on the Airport Authority role.