SHK Properties chairman obtains court injunction before board meeting to remove him Walter Kwok Ping-sheung obtained an interim injunction in the nick of time to block a vote by directors yesterday to terminate him as chairman and chief executive of Sun Hung Kai Properties, apparently after failing to reconcile with family representatives in marathon discussions just before the board meeting. Mr Kwok, who has been 'on leave' for almost three months, served a writ in the High Court in the morning, casting doubt on allegations made against him over his mental fitness to lead the city's No1 developer by market value. At about 1pm, just one hour before the board was scheduled to convene, duty judge Mr Justice Darryl Saw granted the order in a closed-door hearing of the application. A hearing on Mr Kwok's application will be held on May 23 to allow both sides to present their case. Speaking after the board meeting, non-executive director Li Ka-cheung said Mr Kwok also demanded that SHKP set up an independent committee to investigate the accusations against him. 'It was a short meeting, but the injunction will not affect the firm's operations,' he said. 'I hope the issue will be resolved as soon as possible.' Urgently taken out against the company and 16 attendees of the board meeting, including younger brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, the writ detailed what the market suspected all along - repeated disputes among the brothers over SHKP's management. Since May last year, Thomas and Raymond Kwok had 'repeatedly expressed disagreement with Mr Kwok's attempts' at improving corporate governance, implementing measures to enhance accountability and transparency, the writ said. A source close to the situation said in one session after another from Wednesday night, Mr Kwok had tried to work things out with family members. He filed the writ at the last minute, after talks failed. The writ said that Mr Kwok was asked to take a three-month leave, starting from February 18, on the grounds that he suffered from bipolar affective disorder, a mental condition. Raymond Kwok informed Walter Kwok in early January that a Dr Maldonado from Stanford University in California made such a diagnosis and declared him unfit to take the company's helm, the writ said. On February 2, according to the writ, the younger Kwoks notified the board for a meeting to consider a resolution to terminate their brother's appointment. Mr Kwok, in turn, proposed to the board to take leave to avoid being forced to step down. During his leave, he consulted some doctors who found him not suffering from any mental disorder. The writ alleges that Dr Maldonado's diagnosis could have been derived from misinformation supplied by his brothers. A statement released by SHKP late last night said the firm was seeking legal advice over the injunction, which, it stressed, 'in no way represents a final decision of the matter'. It added that the company strongly refuted Mr Kwok's arguments presented in the writ. As no decision was made at yesterday's board meeting, the statement said Mr Kwok 'remains on leave of absence'. On the other hand, sources close to the chairman said his call for an 'independent committee to clear directors' doubt over his capability' was a move to show responsibility to shareholders. A week before the board meeting, Mr Kwok presented the board with four medical reports to show his physical and mental fitness. 'In the long run, investors will cast doubt on the company's management,' said Li Kwok-suen, a fund manager at Phillip Capital Management, who saw in the derailed board meeting a total collapse of the relationship among the brothers. 'The firm had better send a clear message to resolve the chairmanship as soon as possible,' Mr Li said. Although there was no major adverse impact on earnings in the short term, he said SHKP's share price would come under pressure as the saga continued. SHKP shares fell 0.95 per cent to HK$136.10 yesterday. Dao Heng Securities analyst Eric Yuen Chi-fung said that if Mr Kwok had to resort to court action to prevent the board from removing him, his chances of resuming the chairmanship would be slim. 'There are lots of question marks about the company right now,' he said.