NIGEL Raymond, founder of leading property consultants Jones Lang Wootton (Hong Kong), is to retire as managing director and chairman in the territory. He will be replaced by Peter Lee Ho-tim, the first Hong Kong Chinese to be appointed to the top post. Mr Raymond was one of four founding members of Jones Lang Wootton (Hong Kong) in 1973, and has played a major part in the firm's growth. Under Mr Raymond's charge, the company's workforce grew from five people to 430, shrinking to 360 in the past year amid a slowdown in the Hong Kong property sales market. Until recently Mr Raymond was also Jones Lang Wootton Asia chairman and Jones Lang Wootton Pacific co-chairman. Mr Lee took over Mr Raymond's responsibilities as Jones Lang Wootton Asia chairman in early 1995. Mr Raymond said at the time an Asian face was needed in the top slot. There had earlier been some discontent within the ranks of Asian directors alleging unfair treatment by the regional management in Hong Kong. Jones Lang Wootton (Hong Kong) deputy managing director Leung Chun-ying led a group walk-out of Hong Kong staff in 1993, setting up his own rival consultancy, C.Y. Leung & Co. Last year, Singapore managing director Edmund Tie followed suit, setting up his own company, Edmund Tie & Co, with former Jones Lang Wootton directors from Singapore. Mr Raymond described those events as 'irritating hiccups' in the group's past that were now history, and played no part in his decision to leave. Mr Lee joined the company in 1976 and made his name building up the firm's strong retail property department in Hong Kong. He said his main role would be to maintain the link between the Hong Kong office and other company offices in the region, while improving cross-border business with China. 'As the first Chinese national to run the Hong Kong office, it is my intention to advance the firm into the next century,' Mr Lee said. Gerry Kipling will succeed Mr Raymond as Hong Kong managing director.