Allan Zeman, the flamboyant entrepreneur dubbed "Hong Kong's mouse killer", will step down as Ocean Park chairman at the end of this month.
He will be succeeded by his deputy, Leo Kung Lin-cheng, the government said yesterday, announcing the end of Zeman's 11-year stint that has seen the number of visitors to the theme park more than double and a deficit turn into a multimillion-dollar surplus.
Zeman, who earned his nickname for holding off the challenge to the government-owned attraction from Hong Kong Disneyland, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that he wanted to stay on as an adviser.
"On the one hand, I am sad because it has been a long time that I am in this job," said Zeman, who was travelling on the mainland. "On the other hand, I am happy if the board approves my advisory role and I will still have my foot in the door." The board is due to meet next week.
Zeman, who down the years has dressed as everything from a pumpkin to a giant jellyfish, a Chinese emperor, and even a female dancer in high heels and fishnet stockings to promote Ocean Park, wants to finish what he started - an expansion plan including a water park and a hotel.
During his 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.
The Canadian-born businessman, who built up the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district, said the expansion came at a time when Ocean Park faced "a lot of competition" from the Disney park on Lantau and another opening in Shanghai.
Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Greg So Kam-leung said Kung, with his commercial background, was "the most suitable candidate" to take over as Ocean Park chairman. Deputy chairman since 2003, Kung is a banker and serves on several public bodies. He is the vice-president of Bangkok Bank, a member of the Shanghai Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and a non-executive director of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority.
Ocean Park director Joseph Lau Ming-wai, developer Joseph Lau Luen-hung's son, will become deputy chairman on July 1.
Ocean Park board member Richard Tsang Lap-ki said he supported Zeman being an adviser. He said Kung's appointment was "reasonable" in that he would help oversee financial arrangements for the expansion.