Jack So Chak-kwong, the outgoing chairman of MTR Corp (MTRC), has ended months of speculation about his next move by accepting the position of PCCW's group managing director. Mr So is in the final stage of negotiations on his contractual terms, although PCCW yesterday refused to comment on any aspect of his appointment. The arrival of such a high-profile figure will provide the telecommunications firm with a more visible public face, following chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai's move to step back from the glare of publicity he attracts. Mr So will come in over the top of existing management and report only to Mr Li. It is uncertain when he will join as he has further commitments with the MTRC which are expected to be completed by September. News of Mr So's appointment follows the resignation last Tuesday of PCCW deputy chairman Linus Cheung Wing-lam, who was in charge of the former Cable & Wireless HKT until Mr Li's takeover in August 2000. Mr Cheung, the last remaining member of the former HKT management, is to leave PCCW by the end of the year. Mr So was executive director of the Trade Development Council for seven years before joining the MTRC in 1995. His arrival is expected to speed up long-awaited changes at PCCW which is in need of a growth engine with its core fixed-line business suffering from deregulation. 'Richard does not really have an interest in running a utility-type company,' a former colleague said. 'Now he can entrust the group development to Jack.' Mr Li is understood to have been searching for a chief executive for two years during which the company's shares have slipped to record lows amid a world wide slide in the telecommunications business. Ricky Wong Wai-kay, chairman of rival City Telecom, said: 'Mr So is the one that PCCW badly needs. Although he does not have a lot of experience in telecoms, he can contribute a new angle to how PCCW should be run.' Mr So has played a pivotal role at MTRC in projects such as the HK$35 billion Airport Express line - the utility's biggest investment - and the HK$14 billion Tseung Kwan O rail extension. The corporation's HK$10 billion initial public offering in 2000 was another milestone. However, Mr So's career suffered a setback last year when MTRC lost a controversial battle for the Sha Tin to Central rail project to the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp (KCRC). 'The lost bid is a regret to him and the whole company,' an MTRC insider said. 'The project was on our drawing board more than 20 years ago.' Other problems have sprung up in the past couple of years. The protracted deflation and political pressure dashed MTRC's ability to raise fares, while the government's widening deficit and property slump meant the death of its property development-backed financing model. A possible merger between MTRC and KCRC has added uncertainty to the corporation's future. From frontline train operators to executives at the corporation's Kowloon Bay headquarters, MTR staff have had a love-hate working relationship with Mr So. Relinquishing the privilege of taking the corporation's limousine to cross the harbour, Mr So was often spotted taking MTR trains from Tsim Sha Tsui to Admiralty or Central, giving him an opportunity to inspect daily operations and meet staff. However, executives working closely with Mr So complained of his management style. 'He is very demanding and pushes staff hard,' the MTRC insider said.