Ronald Li, former Hong Kong stock exchange chief who was jailed for graft, dies aged 85

Member of prominent Hong Kong family who led merger of four exchanges had been battling cancer for several years

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 December, 2014, 1:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 December, 2014, 8:26am

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Former Stock Exchange of Hong Kong chairman Ronald Li Fook-shiu died on Saturday at the age of 85 after battling cancer for years,it emerged late on Monday.

Li, whose family is prominent in the city's business, political and judicial circles, won acclaim in the 1980s for helping steer the merger of the city's four bourses, but was disgraced in 1990, when he was convicted of taking bribes in return for approving listings. He was sent to Stanley Prison, and served 30 months of a four-year sentence.

News of his death was confirmed by Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, lawmaker representing the financial services sector, and by a source at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, where Li spent his final days.

Cheung said he dined with Li and a group of others from the industry every couple of months, with the most recent meeting a couple of weeks ago.

“He was still very optimistic and joked with us [after learning that his cancer recurred]… He was very much respected in the trade. We called him ‘headmaster’ because many of us had learned from him,” Cheung said.

The lawmaker said Li had made great contributions to the city by popularising stock trading and driving the merger of the four exchanges to become the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

He founded the Far East Stock Exchange in 1969 and, after its 1986 merge with three other exchanges, he became the head of the new bourse, precursor of today's Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.

He was reported to be worth HK$10 billion before he was jailed, and even during his prison term his vast stock portfolio was said to be earning almost HK$5 million per day - while Li toiled for HK$9 in the prison library.

On his release in 1993, Li said he planned a life of "golf, films and travel".

Li's brother, Simon Li Fook-sean, was equally prominent, becoming the first Chinese judge to step in as chief justice. He ran for chief executive ahead of the 1997 handover.

Other high-profile relatives include nephews David Li Kwok-po, chairman of the Bank of East Asia, former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and ex-chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang.