ocean grand boardrooms being emptied by 'personal reasons' disease David Webb, a 'doctor of corporate governance' if ever there was one, has identified a new boardroom-emptying disease. The malady, called 'Personal Reasons', has already reached epidemic proportions at unlucky Ocean Grand Holdings and its various subsidiaries which have problems enough what with some one billion yuan of assets going missing. According to Mr Webb, independent non-executive director William Lo Wing-yan was the first to cite the Personal Reasons bug when he resigned from Ocean Grand Chemical last week. In quick succession, seven other directors of Ocean Grand-related companies came down with the same condition. Except for legislator Cheung Yu-yan and Value Partners founder Yeh V-nee, none of the decamping directors saw fit to mention that the Ocean Grand companies had been taken over by provisional liquidators. 'The Personal Reasons euphemism is used far too widely,' Mr Webb wrote on Webb-site.com. 'It is acceptable if someone is resigning due to reasons of illness, bereavement or other genuine personal difficulties but we propose that anyone who uses the Personal Reasons excuse should, if they have other listed directorships, be required to explain in the same announcement why these Personal Reasons do not make it necessary to resign from those positions too.' Amen. fine start for hsbc's top honcho Just two months into his tenure as HSBC chairman, Stephen Green has presented his shareholders with a 15 per cent increase in first-half profit, beating the street's estimates. Most gratifying for HSBC was the improved performance of its investment banking unit whose nagging underperformance was perhaps the only blemish on the career of Mr Green's predecessor, John Bond. Just how important has China become to the bank's fortunes? Yesterday, for the first time, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp executive director Peter Wong Tung-shun, who runs the bank's China portfolio, flew to London to join investment banking supremo Stuart Gulliver on the customary post-results conference call with analysts. China was HSBC's third-best performer among emerging markets, contributing US$280 million in pretax profits, up 76 per cent from the first half of 2005. fat cat in a cage From deep in the prison where Stephen Wong Wang-sang (pictured) will be reflecting on his misdeeds for the next six years, the former Skyworth Digital chairman will take some pride, perhaps, in having been the highest-paid executive of his company last year. In addition to the HK$70 million he was convicted of stealing from the company, Mr Wong took home HK$7.86 million in salary. Neither should we forget the paper gains of HK$9.67 million from exercising his 12.5 million Skyworth options in February. You win some, you lose some. how not to smoke in public Like multitudes of his compatriots, China's richest man is a smoker. And Wong Kwong-yu was smoking during a news conference yesterday in Beijing as he talked up the coming merger of his Gome appliance chain with rival China Paradise, whose chairman Chen Xiao puffed along in unison. Journalists, however, were forbidden from taking photographs of the two tycoons practising their vice. from one ship to another As Richard Li Tzar-kai prepares to close his purchase of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, readers of the paper may be sad to learn that two of its most popular financial columnists have jumped ship. They are Hung Siu-lam (aka Varitronix chief executive Tony Tsoi Tong-hoo) and Fong Cheuk-yu (an accountant). It may not be long before at least one of them resurfaces. We hear that Next Magazine owner Jimmy Lai Chee-ying quickly hooked up with Mr Tsoi - for his column, certainly, but perhaps for something more.