Ricky Wong Wai-kay was withering in his criticism of Asia Television (ATV). The broadcaster's new chief executive told staff it was probably the worst-run corporation he had seen. It had no internal communications, no morale and no direction. 'I think I just need only 20 per cent of my previous experience to successfully turn around ATV,' he said, just days after taking up the role. How wrong he was. Within 14 days he had resigned. Mr Wong's reign may well be the shortest of any boss in the broadcaster's history. But what he said and did during his tumultuous two weeks in charge generated more front-page headlines for the broadcaster than at any other time in the 49 years it has been on the air. The drama started on December 3 when Payson Cha Mou-sing, chairman of ATV's board of directors, persuaded veteran telecoms executive Linus Cheung Wing-lam to be the broadcaster's executive chairman. The appointment was rubber- stamped by the board of directors the same day. Senior staff were called to a special meeting the following day, where the announcement of Mr Cheung's appointment would be made. But after Mr Cheung secured the board's approval, and unbeknown to anyone other than Mr Cha, he contacted Mr Wong, the City Telecom (Hong Kong) chairman, to discuss the terms and conditions of his appointment as chief executive. Mr Wong signed his employment contract at 10.05pm at the Grand Hyatt hotel. He had spoken with Mr Cheung when Mr Cha was looking for the right person to save the troubled broadcaster in October, following the departure of former chief executive Louis Page. On December 4, senior management gathered in the conference room at ATV's Tai Po headquarters, waiting for an announcement. At 9am, Mr Cheung arrived with Mr Wong, surprising everyone present. 'Today, I will be the executive chairman and Mr Wong will be the CEO,' Mr Cheung announced, adding that only himself, Mr Cha and Mr Wong knew about the appointment. 'Yes, we kept the secret very well and [no one] knew about it until now,' he said. That afternoon, Mr Cheung and Mr Wong held a press conference, which was dominated by the latter. He told the assembled media that ATV should not rely on help from Beijing, should be a Hong Kong-oriented station and even suggested that the station should not accept advertisements for mainland brands. On December 5, Mr Wong's second day on the job, he was in the newsroom to observe the making of the morning news programme, a hint to staff of where his priorities lay. 'It seems Mr Wong did really want to reform the newsroom operation,' one source said. 'The existing staff really worried about such a development.' Mr Wong's plans for the network emerged at a meeting with news and public affairs department staff. 'He said, 'Why does your news team need so many staff? There are only 100 or so staff in Hong Kong Broadband Network's news team',' one staff member recalled. 'We need to be a Hong Kong broadcaster, why don't we follow what Apple Daily does in its reporting style?' the source remembered him saying, referring to the popular tabloid newspaper. 'Why can't we have a paparazzi team to follow senior officials?' It wasn't just the news team under scrutiny. Within days Mr Wong had appeared in all of the station's departments. Change was in the air and many staff feared for their jobs. 'How can we follow the orders from the new CEO? How can we do it?' several senior management figures asked each other. A new week started with four resignation letters on Mr Wong's desk. Senior vice-presidents Dewy Ip, Peter Kwan Wai, Leung Ka-wing and Howard Ho Nai-yin had quit and ATV was forced to deny that a purge had taken place. Mr Cheung and Mr Wong then met the staff to put them in the picture. 'Our situation is dangerous, ATV is losing HK$1 million every day, and over HK$300 million a year,' Mr Cheung said in his opening remarks. 'We need to change, we need to be the voice of Hong Kong people. We should have credibility, otherwise we will just follow the road of pro-Beijing media like Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao. They have strong support from the mainland, but they don't have the support of the Hong Kong people.' Mr Wong once again focused on the news operation, even suggesting that the anchors' makeup needed improving. On December 10, a week after Mr Cheung's appointment as executive chairman was approved, ATV's board of directors met in Tai Po. Several board members had been kept in the dark over Mr Wong's appointment and were less than happy about it. The issue was argued about fiercely at a meeting which sources said lasted more than three hours. Non-executive director and shareholder Chan Wing-kee, who was ATV's chief executive before Mr Cha took the controlling stake, criticised Mr Wong's remarks that he did not want ATV to be a pro-Beijing station. Mr Chan, Liu Changle, the founder of Phoenix Satellite Television, and Citic Group control 41.66 per cent of ATV and represent the mainland's interest in the broadcaster. This was the first sign Mr Wong was running into trouble. The new management were still busy working out a reform plan for the broadcaster when another issue blew up. The Miss Asia pageant, which finished on December 7, was to be decided by votes from the public via the internet and phone text messages. The problem was that the vote tallies did not match the final results announced. As if that was not embarrassing enough, Mr Wong is alleged to have asked one of the Miss Asia candidates whether she had undergone breast augmentation surgery. Meanwhile, Mr Wong had sent an e-mail to newsroom staff outlining guidelines for news reporting, such as avoiding using news from unnamed sources and having more stories from the point of view of the Hong Kong public rather than the authorities. Last Monday morning, Mr Cheung and Mr Wong met to discuss the fallout from the Miss Asia fiasco and how they were going to deal with the issue at a press conference that afternoon. However, during the discussion on how to manage the issue, the two men disagreed: Mr Wong wanted to make the issue transparent to the public, while Mr Cheung did not. 'It seemed Mr Wong said something related to resigning if no agreement was reached, but it was not said in a serious tone,' a source said. 'However, Mr Cheung seemed to take it seriously and regarded Mr Wong as wanting to quit.' The press conference started at 3pm at the Tai Po headquarters, but Mr Wong did not show up, leaving Mr Cheung and Kwong Hoi-ying, senior vice-president of corporate development and external affairs, to host it. Asked whether Mr Wong had made comments about the breasts of a Miss Asia contestant, Mr Cheung - to the shock of everyone present, and Mr Wong himself - said the chief executive had resigned. 'I have great respect and admiration for Mr Ricky Wong's integrity and talent. In fact, it was me who recommended Mr Wong to Mr Payson Cha to join ATV. Most unfortunately, irreconcilable differences in management style have developed since. I have regrettably accepted the resignation of Mr Wong. His resignation is not connected to the incident of the Miss Asia contest.' Mr Cheung then conducted an interview with ATV News about Mr Wong's resignation. Mr Wong, meanwhile, left the ATV offices with his four assistants and headed back to City Telecom's offices. At 10pm, Mr Wong issued a statement through City Telecom, saying he had not resigned and that the board had not accepted his resignation 'even though such a resignation does not exist'. Mr Wong's resignation once again put ATV at the forefront of the news, but for all the wrong reasons. Mr Cha, Mr Cheung and Mr Wong met at ATV's Tai Po headquarters on Tuesday to discuss how to handle the resignation. By all accounts Mr Cha was the referee of a dispute between the other two. After a long discussion, Mr Wong agreed to go but said he would retain a role as an adviser. Mr Cheung would remain as executive chairman. Meanwhile, the government broke its silence on the issue, expressing concern over the confused announcements. Mr Wong remained tight-lipped about his resignation, in public at least. The following day, Mr Cha, Mr Wong and Mr Cheung had a two-hour meeting with the other board members. After it finished, Mr Chan announced that the board had accepted Mr Wong's resignation and his appointment as an adviser. It is clear Mr Wong regarded himself as a reformer, but his new policies did not gain favour among the station hierarchy. Mr Wong signed off with a statement that the reform of the broadcaster was being hindered by some interested parties. Mr Cheung admitted that ATV's shareholders were seeking HK$1 billion in funding to see the broadcaster through the next three years. But who can provide the money and who is capable of leading the reforms needed to turn around ATV is open to question.