Sons of tycoon Henry Fok in fight over estate

Joyce Man

Court battles over the estates of Hong Kong's richest just keep coming - the latest in the shape of a legal battle between two brothers over the fortune of the late tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung.

Fok, who was always one step ahead in investing on the mainland and rose to be a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, died from cancer aged 83 in 2006. He was married three times and had 13 children.

Forbes ranked Fok the 181st wealthiest person in the world with an estimated wealth of US$3.7 billion in 2006. It ranked his descendants collectively in ninth place in a list of Hong Kong's 40 richest in 2008, with US$4.5 billion.

Now one of those sons is accusing the other of breaching his duties as executor of the estate.

Benjamin Fok Chun-yue has lodged a lawsuit in the High Court seeking to dislodge his brother, businessman and Silver Bauhinia Star winner Ian Fok Chun-wan, from his role as executor of their father's estate.

Benjamin and Ian, sons by Henry Fok's first wife, are two of the estate's four executors and trustees. The court filings say Henry Fok's last will, dated 1978, also named a sister and brother-in-law of the tycoon's as executors and trustees.

The brother-in-law has died and Benjamin Fok also wants to remove Henry Fok's 85-year-old sister, who he says has not helped in the administration of his father's estate since his death. He is seeking for the court to appoint someone to act in her and his brother's place. He is also seeking court rulings about various offshore companies, accounts and records.

The court battle among the city's moneyed elite is the latest involving the estate of a wealthy tycoon.

Recent legal brawls include those over the fortunes of late Chinachem chairwoman Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum and late Bossini founder Law Ting-pong.

When reached by phone yesterday, legislative councillor for sports, performing arts, culture and publication Timothy Fok Tsun-ting - the brother of Benjamin and Ian, and Henry Fok's eldest son - declined to comment. Benjamin Fok, who was travelling on the mainland yesterday, also declined to comment. Ian Fok could not be contacted last night. Benjamin Fok alleges Ian distributed and took assets from the estate without the knowledge or consent of the other executors, and failed to provide the information and authorisations needed for the proper administration of the estate.

Benjamin Fok says he is trying to recover the shareholding of several offshore companies, the assets in a few offshore accounts and shares in Henry Fok Estates, a company that is part of the late tycoon's business empire and asset base.

According to Benjamin Fok's filings, Ian Fok said the funds in the offshore accounts amounted to about HK$736 million and the assets in the offshore companies totalled about HK$700 million.

Benjamin Fok says Ian Fok claimed he paid for 350 ordinary shares in Henry Fok Estates, which has 750 ordinary shares and 4,650 preference shares. But Benjamin Fok says the shares are held by a company for their father.

Benjamin Fok says Ian Fok sought acknowledgment from the family that the 350 shares, the funds in the accounts and the offshore companies and their assets belonged to him.

The families by the second and third marriages have signed a document acknowledging Ian Fok's ownership of the various assets.

Ian Fok, he claims, has given those families HK$509 million from the offshore companies. Benjamin claims Ian told them that unless they signed the acknowledgement, they would not receive anything besides the fixed sums under the will.

No one in the family by the first wife signed besides Ian Fok, he says.

He says Ian Fok had funds, including US$2 million and C$1.3 million, transferred from the offshore-company accounts to his own accounts.

He also says Ian said their father had jewellery worth HK$90 million that was not mentioned in a previous list of assets. Benjamin Fok wants Ian Fok to make an affirmation on the inventory of property of their father.