MICHAEL Gale, the 53-year-old chief executive of Hongkong Telecom, was active and apparently in excellent health before his death from a heart attack yesterday, his personal physician Dr Julian Chang said. Dr Chang said the loss of Mr Gale was a big shock and one he was having difficulty accepting. ''Michael had no history of heart trouble and had undergone a number of health checks over the years which showed no sign of potential problems,'' Dr Chang said. Mr Gale died in Matilda Hospital on Victoria Peak where he was to have been discharged later in the morning after a successful operation on his back. ''He was very active and wanted to be released a few days ago. His back operation had been a complete success . . . this is a tragedy,'' Dr Chang said. Mr Gale was due to announce his successor as chief executive of Hongkong Telecom later yesterday. Chief executive of Hongkong Telecom's parent company Cable and Wireless, James Ross, told the press conference he had planned to announce Mr Gale's promotion to deputy chairman and the appointment of Cathay Pacific's deputy managing director Linus CheungWing-lam to take his place. Mr Gale is survived by his wife Jessamine and two children Mark, 28, and Janette, 30. Details on funeral arrangements were not available yesterday. Deputy to the Governor Anson Chan Fang On-sang said she was shocked and saddened to hear of Mr Gale's death. ''I had close dealings with Mr Gale. Together, we tackled many difficult and complex issues but they were made easier by his vision and unbounded enthusiasm for the growth of the industry in Hong Kong and the region,'' said Mrs Chan, formerly secretary for economic services. Mr Cheung, 46, on May 1 will become the first Chinese chief executive of Hongkong Telecommunications and its second chief executive officer since its 1988 listing. Hong Kong-born Mr Cheung spent 23 years with the airline and its parent company, the Swire Group.