Wealth gap closing, but not because poor getting richer Let's end the year on a happy note. So here's the good news: the gap between the rich and the poor is probably shrinking, as the rich got poorer this year. Thanks to Lehman Brothers and their minibond distributors, the wealth of the city's rich people shrank sharply in the past four months. The last thing you would fancy this year would be being a Hong Kong tycoon - with an inherently higher chance of exposure to toxic accumulators, aka I-kill-you-later. This year wasn't a good time to be a mainland tycoon either, given that the top three names on the Forbes China list are either losing control of their empires or seeing their companies tumble more than 90 per cent this year. Bearing these in mind, welcome to our special annual awards. Typhoon Award The first category is for tycoons who fared relatively well in the financial crisis. The winner is ... Sino Land chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong, who admitted last month he did not understand the complicated financial products that drowned many of his tribe. 'Many people tried to sell me those products over the past two years, but I just didn't get it,' he confessed. Ignorance is bliss, as it turned out. Special mention: Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chi-chung, who said he has never had any respect for investment bankers, and forbade his daughter to marry one. We reckon she's still married to someone who has a job. Lehman Brothers Award If Lehman was the name of the most famous brothers this year, the Kwok brothers would be a close second. The Sun Hung Kai Properties brothers provided ample grist for the rumour mills in much of the early part of the year by suspending eldest brother Walter Kwok Ping-sheung from his role as chairman and chief executive. No official reason was provided, but all the newspapers in town pointed to extramarital activities that somehow interfered with the boardroom decisions of the property developer. For three months, Walter and his two brothers crossed swords in the media, both sides almost going to court to settle their differences. In the end, Walter was ousted in favour of his 80-year-old mother, Kwong Siu-hing, but was allowed to stay as a non-executive director. Best Financial Company Forget the awards dinner for the best financial institution this year. Does such a thing exist any more? If it does, our pick would be Wing Lung Bank, which generated a return of 60 per cent this year after the controlling Wu family sold its stake to China Merchants Bank in a HK$36.3 billion deal. The Wu family cashed out for about HK$20 billion, enough to buy Wing Hang Bank, Dah Sing Financial Holdings and Chong Hing Bank - all of them. Worst Financial Advice This was a year when even your best stock idea could cost you millions. Case in point: Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee, who saw his stock portfolio halve from its peak of HK$200 billion. The 11 picks in his China portfolio lost an average of more than 60 per cent. The so-called 'Asia stock god' sold his most valued China Life Insurance stocks last month and hinted a couple of times that he was only a fake stock god, the real one being Warren Buffett. Well, at least one should admire his honesty and willingness to share his investment philosophy. But there are those who may wish they hadn't listened to Uncle Four's advice about buying Australian dollars, which lost a third of their value this year. Bailout of the Year Even in a year of shocks, Citic Pacific's bad bets created quite a stir. A month after Lehman went belly up, the red-chip conglomerate disclosed that its Australian currency accumulator saw a mark-to-market loss of HK$15 billion. The news caused a 55 per cent drop in its share price in a single day, the most for a blue chip, prompting parent Citic Beijing to offer a HK$11 billion bailout package that covered most loss-making derivative contracts and diluted the stake of chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin, who is tipped to go into early retirement. Special mention: The Hong Kong government's deposit protection plan, after the run on Bank of East Asia. Corporate Heart Award This goes to the millions of corporates and individuals who contributed to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. We may not be as generous as we would like in these difficult times, but our hearts are always with the distressed. Finally, it has been my pleasure to recount the foibles of corporate Hong Kong this year. Thank you for sharing the journey with Lai See. Let's look forward to an even more challenging year ahead.