ATV - Asia Television Limited

Former ATV boss Deacon Chiu dies, aged 90

Media entrepreneur started with one cinema but expanded into other areas, including television

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 March, 2015, 4:11pm

Deacon Chiu Te-ken

Hong Kong tycoon Deacon Chiu Te-ken - noted as the only owner ever to turn perennially troubled broadcaster ATV into a profitable venture - died yesterday at the age of 90.

Tributes were paid to the veteran of the entertainment industry, who was declared dead yesterday morning at Yan Chai Hospital in Tsuen Wan after being found unconscious at his villa in Ting Kau. Police said Chiu had a history of ill-health and that there were no suspicious circumstances.

Born in Shanghai in 1924, Chiu came to Hong Kong in 1949. He made his first investment by opening a cinema in a rural area. In 1959, he started a small bank, Far East Bank, by collecting deposits from farmers.

In 1962, he expanded his business by buying Lai Chi Kok amusement park - a zoo and theme park, which was closed in 1997 to make way for public and private housing. In 1972, he founded and chaired Far East Consortium, focusing on property development. It was listed in the same year. Sister company, Far East Holdings International, which concentrates on investment in Greater China, was listed a year later.

He also chaired Far East Hotel and Entertainment, which was listed in 1979. It focuses on hotel operations, property rental, securities trading and investment holdings.

Chiu became famous when he bought Rediffusion Television and renamed it Asia Television in 1982. It was a profitable company under his chairmanship, which ended in 1989 when he sold it. The station has since struggled financially and for ratings.

There was also controversy. In the 1980s, Chiu was charged with false accounting, but the criminal case was dropped because he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

ATV yesterday issued a statement to express condolences to Chiu's family, and thanked Chiu for his contribution to the development of the broadcaster.

Terry Lai Siu-ping, honorary group chairman of Intercontinental Group, which runs the MCL cinema chain, said Chiu was someone with initiative who was devoted to the film industry.

Lai saw Chiu in action when the Palladium Opera House opened at the Lai Chi Kok park.

"It was the first day of the Lunar New Year. A show about the Smurfs was about to start, but Chiu still had his hands on a hammer, checking the condition of a chair. He personally made sure everything was okay," she recalled.

Television industry veteran Peter Lam Yuk-wah, who had business dealings with ATV when Chiu was in charge, said Chiu had a reputation for controlling costs.

"Rumour has it that ATV staff were told how many pieces of toilet paper they were allowed to use," Lam said. "ATV was profitable only when it was under Chiu. This shows you how successful he was in saving money."