Midland calls for investigation into shareholder
Developer asks 'law enforcement agency' to probe remarks made by Apex Benchmark
Midland Holdings has asked a "law enforcement agency" to investigate Apex Benchmark for "bad mouthing" the firm, escalating a war of words between the family of Freddie Wong Kin-yip who heads the realtor and its second-largest shareholder.
The bitter public dispute broke out at the firm's annual general meeting yesterday after the top management was grilled by Apex for one-and-a-half hours about its "over-paid" directors. Apex is the second-largest shareholder with a 10.54 per cent stake in Midland, after chairman Wong's 27.89 per cent.
Deputy chairwoman Angela Wong Ching-yi, the daughter of Wong, said Apex has reportedly said it intends to acquire the firm and said allegations of mismanagement could affect investors' and shareholders' interests.
She disclosed a conversation with Apex chief operating officer Mau Wang-bong during a meeting in February and questioned the fund's motives behind its increasing stake in Midland.
"Mau told me the purpose [of buying a stake in Midland] is to make quick money … we have plenty of time to make trouble … like calling an extraordinary general meeting, questioning [the firm's] connected transactions … [asking for a] change in directors," she said, adding Apex does not "care about" Midland's performance.
The firm's lawyers suggested taking the matter to a "law enforcement agency", she said without elaborating.
Apex called for an extraordinary shareholders' meeting to demand the removal of certain directors at Midland.
"I have more earth-shaking evidence on hand, including a video showing staff removing bottles of red wine inside the room of one of the high-paid directors after news spread that she seldom showed up in the Mong Kok office. The staff used her room for the storage of red wine!" Mau said.
Gary Yeung, the former director of Midland's Hong Kong district who was sacked in January after he asked Angela Wong to step down, questioned Wong's wife, Metty Tang Mai-lai, who he claimed did not report to work but still received HK$4.64 million in salary last year.
"I only see Tang attend once a year at the company's annual dinner in the past 19 years in Midland," he said at the AGM. Tang did not attend the AGM yesterday.
Koo Fook-sun, an independent non-executive director on the remuneration committee, replied: "Sales are also not in the office everyday."
Another issue under the spotlight was the firm taking out a HK$413 million loan from a mysterious director who received HK$1.26 million interest last year.