Hong Kong Disneyland drops bombshell as it announces sudden resignation of managing director for ‘personal reasons’

It’s a world of hopes and a world of fear: plunging profits and the shadow of Shanghai loom over the decision to leave Hong Kong’s version of the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 2016, 8:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2016, 12:27am

Hong Kong Disneyland dropped a bombshell late yesterday, ­announcing that managing director Andrew Kam had resigned “for personal reasons” and would be replaced by the theme park’s vice-president of operations, Samuel Lau.

No further explanation was given about Kam’s sudden departure, which came after the park reported a loss of HK$148 million last year, marking its first descent into the red since 2011.

“We are grateful to Andrew for his leadership of Hong Kong Disneyland over the past eight years,” said Bill Ernest, the Asia head of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

In an official statement issued by Disney yesterday, it was the only recognition of the man who has been managing the park since 2008 after taking over the job from Ernest. The park has turned around from a loss-making venture under Kam’s stewardship.

The rest of the statement hailed Lau as the right man for the job. A relative newcomer to Hong Kong, he began work last year as Disneyland’s vice-president of operations. He started his career with the entertainment giant in 2010 as vice-president of transportation at Disney World in Florida.

The theme park recorded a profit of HK$332 million in 2014, but was hit by a 23 per cent drop in the number of mainland tourists last year.

“This year will be difficult,” Kam warned last month.

The government yesterday welcomed Lau’s appointment while Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah thanked Kam for his leadership.

READ MORE: Hong Kong Disneyland has only itself to blame for 2015 losses

But Kam’s sudden resignation took the tourism sector by surprise as he had shown no indication he would leave.

“I am very shocked. He didn’t mention the resignation last time we talked,” said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council. He said they spoke to each other frequently over phone.

Tung said he was a close friend of Kam’s, but he knew nothing of the “personal reasons” for his departure, or whether it had to do with last year’s losses.

However, Tung did not seem worried about the future of the theme park, saying he expected the new boss to bring “some fresh ideas” to the decade-old attraction.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said he was confused about Kam’s sudden resignation, considering him a “very hard-working managing director” during his time at Disneyland.

“He showed a lot of initiative at work,” Yiu said, adding that Kam had been very good at dealing with relationships among shareholders and communicating with legislators.

Kam started his role as managing director at Hong Kong Disneyland in August 2008.

With him at the helm, the park’s annual visitor numbers overall jumped from 4.5 million in 2008 to 6.8 million last year.

The Hong Kong park is expected to face significant competition from Shanghai’s new Disneyland, which is scheduled to open this June.