John Hung always looks as though he needs to be somewhere else. Today he's sitting back in the Lobster Bar and Grill at the Island Shangri-La talking about his colourful life, but you can tell it's just another brief interlude before he bounds off to another rendezvous somewhere in the city. He knows better than anyone that life can change dramatically for the worse in an instant, so now he makes the most of every day. Hung turned 73 years old on Monday, and he celebrated it with his wife and family. But just over a year ago, he enjoyed a different kind of celebration - on the day he was released from prison. The news of his guilty verdict, in a bribery case, had rocked Hong Kong society and its business world. Today Hung still vehemently maintains his innocence. But the experience, if anything, has reinvigorated him as he looks to rebuild his reputation and career. 'There is no future in history,' he said. 'Looking forward is my only option.' During his incarceration, he wrote a book about his life, Master of None, and it offers an insight into one of the city's most recognisable taipans. It describes a man whose life may have had its share of ups and downs, but it has never been dull. With Chinese and Scottish ancestry, Hung's family is steeped in the history of Hong Kong. Hung joined Wharf Holdings in 1967, after being brought into the company by his stepfather M.C. Hung, and he became the third generation of his family to work for the property, media and communications group. By the time he retired in 2002, his family's association with Wharf spanned 90 years. During that time, he held various senior positions, including managing director of real estate group Wheelock and Company and executive director of Wharf. It would be hard to find a businessman in the city with an equally impressive portfolio. At the height of his powers, he was under immense corporate pressure, and it was not unusual for him to attend five business lunches and five business dinners a week. A capable sportsman, he played cricket for Hong Kong, was captain of the Singapore Cricket Club and was once a talented high jumper. He was chairman of the Sports Development Board and president of the Hong Kong Cricket Club for 11 years. He was made a fellow of the Hong Kong Management Association, awarded the Silver Bauhinia Star and appointed a Justice of the Peace. He was also chairman of the China Coast Community and the Enlighten Action for Epilepsy charities. His influential contribution to Hong Kong business and sporting organisations made him a popular and well-known figure, but his sudden and shocking fall from grace brought unwelcome notoriety. Hung was charged with, but pleaded not guilty to, one count of soliciting an advantage and three of accepting an advantage totalling HK$450,000 from a middleman, Joseph Loong Shun-ming, in October 2006, as a reward for helping racing member Joanne Wong Pui to become a full Jockey Club member. Hung, who was a voting member of the Jockey Club, contended the money was not connected to Wong's membership bid and was a loan from Loong, whom he described as a friend. However, Deputy Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on said it would be an astonishing coincidence if the two assertions were not connected, and Hung was found guilty. A later appeal failed. He was jailed for two years in July 2009 for bribery and served 16 months in Stanley Prison. Hung maintains his innocence, but is long past caring what people think about him. 'I've served my penance. This is the next chapter,' he said. Prison gave Hung a chance to put his life in perspective, and he gradually began to see that things could be worse. He realised he was much luckier than those serving longer sentences who had no family to speak of and no home to go back to. 'It soon dawned on me how very fortunate I was compared with many others in there,' he said. 'Now I feel more empathy to people generally. I'm more tolerant.' During his prison term, the irony of it all was not lost on him. As a Justice of the Peace, he had visited Stanley and most of Hong Kong's other correctional facilities for many years. But when a Justice of the Peace is actually one of the prisoners, it no doubt elicited some interest. 'Just before one Justice of the Peace visit, the officers told us that we had the right to raise a complaint with him,' Hung said. 'A lone voice from our group said: 'There's no need. We have our own Justice of the Peace in here!' The officers did not share in the laughter.' He confided that the best way to get through prison was 'just to be one of the lads'. Once, a young prison officer who was aware that the taipan was a Justice of the Peace asked how he would like to be addressed. 'Just call me 341863, young man,' Hung recalled. 'That was my prison number. The others had a good laugh.' Not that he found prison a piece of cake. He lost 17kg in the first few months. His home was a two-by-three-metre cell, and his bed, bolted to the floor, was not big enough for him. Inside was also a toilet with an attached wash basin, both made of stainless steel. In the summer months, the temperature in the cell would typically rise to 37 degrees. There were no fans, and ventilation was poor. He would go through two T-shirts a night, each drenched with sweat. If he did sleep, it was because he was exhausted. Hung got used to it all over time, though. He got accustomed to his rock-hard bed, and he felt better after losing weight. The food was nutritious, and because he never got coffee or alcohol, his body could detoxify. He was healthier for it. Most importantly, he realised that his fellow prisoners had much more to worry about than he did, and that dramatically changed his thinking. 'Before I went to prison, I only focused on those in the upper echelons of Hong Kong society. That was wrong,' he said. 'Many of the people I met in prison came from such humble backgrounds that prison life was actually better than the one they had on the outside. Some would say on their release, 'Keep my room for me' because they knew they'd be back.' Prison taught him about the basic necessities of living and that although luxuries can help you enjoy your life, they don't necessarily make it any better. Now Hung puts his friends and family first. He learned that all the trappings of a privileged life were not what mattered - what did matter were his wife and children. Of course, finishing his prison time did not mean his life would immediately return to normal. Hung felt sure most of his friends and associates would stand by him when he got out, but also knew that others would turn away. 'Many old associates and acquaintances did not call, but thankfully the majority of my true friends came forward in support,' he said. His conviction meant he could no longer serve on any listed boards; he was disqualified from practice in most professional capacities; it created problems for travelling to certain countries; and he was suddenly persona non grata in the most highly respected clubs and institutions in the city. Hung was philosophical about it, although it still rankles him that he is no longer a member of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, despite being president for 11 years. 'Cricket was my life, so yes, I am hurt when it comes to not being a member there anymore,' he said 'But, at the end of the day, it's only a club. I've learned there's more to my life than these institutions.' Twelve months since his release, Hung is adamant he does not want people to forget he has spent time in prison. He admits he has lost money in the past 'playing the [stock] markets', and court costs have also put a major dent in his finances. Once chauffeured around like royalty, he said he's now having to 'lick my own stamps'. It all means that, at 73, he's going to have to use all his experience and expertise to get back on top again. He refuses to live on his past glories, and accepts that people of his generation do not retire, they just keep going - there's plenty of life in the old dog yet. 'I will not try to hide the fact I've been a prisoner, but I know I can still be successful. With a lot of fight and determination, I can claw my way back,' he said.