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Shui On Land

How Vincent Lo trumped the Donald in New York project

A decade-long partnership at New York’s US$1.76 billion Riverside South ended in a series of lawsuits, which Donald Trump eventually lost.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 2:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 July, 2017, 7:15pm

In the US and UK media, Shui On Land Ltd.’s chairman Vincent Lo is occasionally referred to as “the Donald Trump of China.”

It’s a difficult comparison, given Lo’s personal bearing; though the business vision, his dalliances with debt and his tabloid chronicled marriage to a beauty pageant winner do bear some comparison.

The experience of facing down Donald Trump in a US$500 million lawsuit in the mid 2000s is not something that Lo would discuss in great detail, considering that Developer Trump is now President Trump. Asking about it now elicited a sigh and a roll of the eyes.

“He has a very flamboyant personality,” Lo said in an interview with The Peak magazine, published by the South China Morning Post. “We all have to sit back and see [what happens]. It’s worrying to see so many retired generals there [in the US cabinet], so I think the world is watching carefully.”

Lo, in partnership with New World Development Co.’s chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun had come to Trump’s aid in 1994 when the American property magnate was unable to service the payments on a 77-acre swathe of land in New York, known as Riverside South, following a crash in the real estate market.

The Hong Kong billionaires agreed to buy the land, assume the debts and pay Trump 30 per cent of the profits.

Their subsequent partnership lasted for over 10 years, until Lo and Cheng sold the development for US$1.76 billion in 2005.

It may have been one of the largest residential real estate transactions in New York’s history at the time, but an apoplectic Trump alleged that he could have gotten a better price and that he was not consulted about the sale.

Thus began a years-long suite of lawsuits, which ended up with Trump losing in court and receiving much less than what he had asked for in the settlement.

In 2015, US presidential candidate Trump bragged openly of how he “beats China all the time.”

“Everyone is trying to figure out how to deal with President Trump,” Lo said. “Will he behave as he

runs his own business? Politics is very different from business. There are checks and balances, but with his personality, there will obviously be some changes.”

(These are excerpts of an article published in the March issue of The Peak magazine, available by invitation and at selected news stands.)