Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation managing director Kam in the running for CEO position

  • Source says the 56-year-old, who runs mainland and overseas operations for the rail giant, is among the candidates to replace Lincoln Leong
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 10:48pm

The MTR Corporation’s managing director Jacob Kam Chak-pui is among the candidates to be its next CEO as the troubled rail giant struggles to ride out its management crisis, the Post has learned.

A source familiar with the situation said Kam, 56, managing director of operations and mainland business, was one of the candidates being considered to replace incumbent CEO Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen, who sought early retirement in August following a construction scandal that struck Hong Kong’s most expensive rail project, the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.3 billion) Sha Tin to Central link.

“Dr Kam is among those vying for the top job and the board is now weighing up the candidates,” the source said. In 2017, Leong took home a pay packet of HK$15.2 million including bonus.

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Another insider source said there were some overseas candidates and internal MTR managerial staff applying for the position, and a committee composed of board members would make a decision.

The race for the top job was heating up as the source said chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang had turned down an offer from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to extend his contract by another three years.

Kam is the best candidate I’ve ever come across for this top job
Michael Tien, lawmaker

In an announcement issued on Monday, the government said Ma was reappointed as the MTR Corp’s chairman for another six months until June 30, 2019. The source said Ma agreed to the six-month extension as he hoped to finalise the recruitment of a new CEO.

Kam, who earned HK$9.8 million in 2017, was tasked in August with overseeing the rail giant’s capital projects, including the troubled Sha Tin to Central link after the scandal prompted projects director Philco Wong to resign with immediate effect, and caused the departures of three other of the project’s general managers.

The scandal, which came to light in May and is subject to a commission of inquiry, centres around claims that steel bars were cut short to hide improper installation into couplers on a platform at Hung Hom station and that supporting walls were changed without authorisation.

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Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, also former chairman of Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC), praised Kam as “the best candidate” for leading the embattled firm as he had the engineering knowledge to oversee its rail projects.

“Kam is the best candidate I’ve ever come across for this top job because he has extensive experience in the areas of operations and construction. This kind of talent is very rare and I can’t even think of anyone with similar calibre in the KCRC,” he said.

Tien added that Kam’s current responsibilities of overseeing mainland and overseas railway operations was a waste of his talent as they only accounted for a small part of the MTR Corp’s overall business.

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Hong Kong Railway Employees Union chairman Tam Kin-chiu also agreed that Kam was a capable person for the job of CEO.

“He has good experience in dealing with rail matters. From our past interactions with him during union meetings, he was open-minded and willing to listen to our opinions,” he said.

“Since Kam has been with MTR for a very long time and he is already familiar with the operations of MTR and its personnel, it would be easy for him to tackle any thorny issues,” Tam added.

Kam, a doctoral degree holder in mechanical engineering from the University of London in the UK, joined the rail company in 1995 and has held various management positions in operations, projects and China and international business divisions.

Having been the operations director between January 2011 and April 2016, Kam, who is also a chartered engineer in the UK, has been in his current role since May 2016.