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Obituaries

Hong Kong property magnate Walter Kwok dies, aged 68

  • Former chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties suffered stroke in August, and was receiving treatment at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2018, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2018, 9:23am

Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, former chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, died at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital on Saturday morning two months after he was hospitalised following a stroke.

Update: Kwok was with ‘loving family’ when he died, wife says

Kwok, 68, was admitted into Ruttonjee Hospital’s intensive care unit after falling unconscious at his residence at Deep Water Bay in late August.

He was released afterwards, and was transferred to Hong Kong Adventist Hospital, where he was receiving “careful treatment” from multiple doctors after the stroke, his wife Wendy Kwok Lee Ting-wing said in a statement while he was in hospital.

A spokesman for Sun Hung Kai Properties said he did not have any comment about its former chairman’s death.

Kwok, with his younger brothers Thomas and Raymond, inherited control of Sun Hung Kai from their late father Kwok Tak-Seng in 1990. Walter Kwok was born in 1950 in Hong Kong and educated in Britain, earning a master’s in civil engineering from the Imperial College of Science.

Kwok married Lee in 1983 and they had two sons and a daughter. Before that, Kwok was briefly married to Lydia Ku, daughter of a wealthy Shanghai businessman.

In 1997, Walter Kwok was kidnapped by gunmen working for Chinese gangster Cheung Tze-keung, nicknamed “Big Spender”, and spent six days in captivity. He was taken to a small hut in Fanling in the New Territories – the same hut where Cheung had held Victor Li, son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, the year before.

Walter Kwok supports using land bank for affordable homes scheme

Walter Kwok initially refused to cooperate, leading Cheung to beat him, and shove him into a small wooden box. He finally called his family to ask them to pay the HK$600 million ransom, which was about half of what Cheung had initially demanded.

Cheung fled to Guangzhou, where he was arrested, sentenced to death, and executed on December 5, 1998.

Walter Kwok later said the ordeal made him suffer from depression for a year.

Chairman of Sun Hung Kai until 2008, Walter Kwok was ousted from the family business by his mother Kwong Siu-hing, who controlled 55 per cent of the family trust, with 15 per cent held by each of the three brothers.

In 2014, he started his own property company – the privately held Empire Group Holdings. Pieced together from some other private property holdings, Empire began to work with other prominent Hong Kong developers, bidding on projects and amassing Walter Kwok a new fortune, estimated by Forbes at US$8.7 billion. He ranked 10th on Hong Kong’s rich list in 2018.

A highlight of the family dispute came in October 2010, when Kwong removed Kwok as a beneficiary of the family trust. Since then, he had fought to regain control of the company and his one-third stake in the lucrative trust.

In 2012, Walter was asked by the Post about his mother’s role in the company, and he dismissed her as “just a housewife”.

After a deal had been reached that saw Kwok leave Sun Hung Kai permanently, but regain his place in the family trust, Walter attended his mother’s 84th birthday party in December 2013.

In front of guests, the two appeared to have made up, apparently signalling an end to all the family drama and infighting, according to one observer. But in reality the rift never really healed.

Walter Kwok’s children have no part in Sun Hung Kai, though the sons of Thomas and Raymond are in senior positions.

In late 2017, Kwok unsuccessfully sought to have the allocation of assets within the family trust altered in his favour through a court in Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands. It was reported that he decided not to appeal.