It was probably the first time since they took control of Sun Hung Kai Properties from their father that none of the Kwok brothers was at a press conference detailing the fortunes of their company. Senior management admitted that vice-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and managing director Raymond Kwok Ping-luen stayed away from the interim results briefing to avoid questions about the temporary departure of chairman and elder brother Walter Kwok Ping-sheung. Walter Kwok was told to step down on February 18 by his mother because of his close friendship with Ida Tong Kam-hing. While there have been meetings where Walter Kwok's duties as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference kept him in Beijing, Thomas and Raymond Kwok have always attended. The company even refused to tell reporters when or where the briefing would be held until 2pm yesterday - three hours before it started. Even then, the normally lengthy session was brought to a prompt finish after 30 minutes to avoid prickly questions about the family drama. Executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen began the briefing with a statement on behalf of the embattled chairman. But then a storm of questions about the family dispute began. Another executive director, Michael Wong Yick-kam, said: 'The management of the company is of the view that the company's business and the Kwoks' family affairs should be separated. There have been many media reports and much speculation. Some of them are not true. It is difficult for us to respond to and clarify every single report.' The team of six executive directors took nine questions and, at least twice, a communications manager had to step in when questions touched on the recent family saga. Mr Wong repeated that the company's operations and strategy remained unchanged. 'That the chairman is on leave will not affect [company operations]. It is business as usual here.'