Peninsula owner Michael Kadoorie grooming his children as possible successors

Tycoon's children are groomed to take over the sprawling global empire, but their father plans to stay at the helm as long as he can

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 December, 2013, 2:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 2:16pm

Michael Kadoorie, the 72-year old patriarch tycoon of a global business empire spanning luxury hotels to local electricity supply, is preparing to pass the baton to the family’s next generation.

Kadoorie told the South China Morning Post that each of his three children will be groomed to be a leader of the corporate goliath – but will only be given the job if they really want it.

“In the last three months, the Chinese deputy premier [Li Yuanchao] asked me whether I had any children and whether they would be interested in continuing the business,” Kadoorie said. “I assured him they will be groomed, as I was, to follow my father.”

The issue of succession is looming large for a raft of Hong Kong’s most powerful families.

They are aware the privileges they have enjoyed come with obligations

Peter Woo Kwong-ching last month announced his decision to step down as chairman of conglomerate Wheelock and Co, a move some analysts said could help him pursue a career in politics. His son, Douglas Woo Chun-kuen, was named his successor with effect from January 1.

Earlier this month, Kwong Siu-hing, the 84-year-old matriarch who controls the HK$260 billion Sun Hung Kai Properties empire, transferred shares worth an estimated HK$33 billion to the families of two sons. Other tycoons such as Li Ka-shing of Cheung Kong Holdings and Cheng Yu-tung of New World Development have also arranged for their sons to share in the management of the blue chips.

Kadoorie, the third generation son of an Iraqi-Jewish family that settled in Hong Kong in the 1880s, oversees a group that controls assets as varied as the luxury hotel brand Peninsula hotels, local electricity supplier CLP Holdings, and the Peak Tramways. But while preparing to hand over the baton, Kadoorie says he plans to continue at the top for as long as he is able, noting that his father, Lawrence, was at work in the very office he now occupied, atop St George’s Building in Central, until the day before he died in 1993.

Kadoorie’s daughter, Natalie, 28, returned to Hong Kong this year and joined the Peninsula. Her brother, Philip, 21, is a university student. The middle child is Bettina. “They already are aware that the privileges they have enjoyed come with obligations,” he said of his children.