West Kowloon Cultural District

West Kowloon arts hub CEO Michael Lynch resigns citing personal reasons

Australian to leave his post in August, saying he needs to spend more time with seriously ill wife

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2015, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:47pm

West Kowloon Cultural District Authority CEO Michael Lynch will step down in August for personal reasons, triggering a search for his successor at the arts hub.

Lynch, who renewed his contract last July and had been expected to stay until the middle of next year, said his wife, well-known arts administrator Chrissy Sharp, was seriously ill and added that his age had also been a factor in his surprise decision.

"It's a sad day for me," the veteran arts administrator said yesterday, his voice wavering as he tried to hold back his tears.

"It's been a tough year for me. My wife is seriously ill … I've dragged her around the world for 12 years ... I need to spend more time with her, my children and my family."

Lynch said he was "going with great regret" and added that at 64 years old it was time for retirement, despite earning more than HK$6 million a year. He tendered his six-month notice to the board of the authority and will leave his job on August 3.

A board member said Lynch was in tears when he told the board of his decision.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who chairs the board, said the authority would create a committee - which she would also chair - to recruit his replacement.

Lam and vice-chairman Ronald Arculli praised Lynch's achievements in overseeing the hub's first major developments including the Xiqu Centre, visual culture museum M+ and the park, as well as creating new cultural events such as Bamboo Theatre and Freespace Fest to engage the public.

"His departure is a great loss to Hong Kong and our cultural sector," Lam said.

Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, who was the arts hub chairman when Lynch joined, said he regretted the departure and praised Lynch for his contributions to Hong Kong.

Lynch is the second arts hub CEO to resign before completing his contract.

The former head of the Sydney Opera House and the Southbank Centre in London joined the authority in 2011 to succeed Graham Sheffield, the former artistic director of London's Barbican who quit just five months into the West Kowloon job.

Lynch's departure comes as the trouble-plagued project is faced with rising construction costs, which have forced the authority to shrink the project's scale and revise its development schedule.

The latest setback saw the authority pay HK$304.5 million from its own funds for advance construction and design of a portion of the arts hub's basement after a government funding application was delayed by filibustering in Legco.

A source close to the authority's board said Lynch did not seem unwell in recent months but admitted that he had been under tremendous pressure.

Lynch's parents died last year, which had made him hesitate before renewing his contract, the source said.

Lynch was said to hold different views from Lam on many issues, ranging from financing to which venue to build first.

Lam yesterday rebutted such allegations. "This is certainly not true," she said,

But a board member, who requested anonymity, questioned whether Lynch was hired at the right stage of the hub's development.

"Up until 2018, West Kowloon is all about planning and construction, which aren't Lynch's expertise. It would've made much better sense to have Lynch on board one year before the arts hub was built," the member said.