Feuding siblings and a bitter boardroom coup – MoneyWeek

Thearrestscoincidewithintense“publicdiscontent”intheformercolonyaboutstratosphericpropertyprices。

Butthereisalsospeculationthattheymaybelinkedtoalong-standingfeudwiththeKwoks’olderbrother,Walter,whomtheyoustedaschairmanin2008withbackingfromtheirmother,claiminghewas“mentallyunfittorunthebusiness”。

Inacity“wherepropertyisking”,theKwoksare“localroyalty”,saysCNN。

com。

Buttheireccentricitieshavelongbeen“HongKongtabloidfodder”。

They’refamousforbuildingathemeparkfeaturingalife-sizedreplicaofNoah’sArk,“builttospecificationslistedintheBible”。

Itincludesarestaurant,hotel“andacoffin–inwhichvisitorsareencouragedtolaydownandthinkupontheirlife”。

TheKwokfamilysagaisracierthanmanyoutsideHongKongmightsuspect,saystheSingaporeStraitsTimes。

Itcontainsall“thejuicyingredients”ofarivetingdramaserial:“akidnapping,feudingsiblings,amistress,chargesofmentalillness,abitterboardroomcoup,afamilytornapart”。

Thedynastybeganwhenthebrothers’father,KwokTak-seng,movedtoHongKongfrommainlandChinaafterWorldWarTwoandsetupSHKP,ridingoneofthebiggestpropertyboomsinhistory。

OnKwoksenior’sdeathin1990,theempire’sreinspassedtohiseldestson,Walter。

Butthefamily’swealthsoonreboundedonthem。

In1997,Walterwaskidnappedbyagangster,CheungTze-keung(aka“BigSpender”),andkeptforaweekstrippednakedinawoodenbox,whilehisfamilynegotiatedhisfreedom。

Cheungreceived“thebiggestransompaidinHongKonghistory”(aroundUS$7m),beforebeingcaughtandexecutedin1998。

Theseedsofthefeudareprobablypersonal。

RaymondandThomaslongdisapprovedoftheir(married)brother’s30-yearrelationshipwithhismistress,IdaTongKam-hing,dubbed“HK’sCamilla”bythetabloidpress。

WhenWaltertriedtoco-optherontoSHKP’sboard,“abitterbattleforcontrol”ensued,culminatinginthe2008coupwhichforcedhisremovalandeliminationfromthefamilytrust。

Hesuedhisbrothersfordefamationaftertheyallegedlyclaimedhewasa“liar”who“sufferedfrombipolardisorder”。

DidWalterhaveahandinhisbrothers’arrestlastweek?

Thereisspeculationtothatend,notesTheWallStreetJournal(seebelow)。

Whateverthecase,thissagalookssettorunandrun。

Howthearrestsaffectedthebrothers’$18bnempire

“Businessasusual”isthemessagefromSunHungKaiProperties,butthisaffairhasrockedtheworld’ssecond-largestpropertycompanybymarketvaluation,saysReuters。

ThetwoyoungerKwokbrothers–whosecontrollingstakeinSHKP,floatedin1972,wasvaluedbyForbesat$18。

3bninMarch–continueasco-chairmen。

Butthearrestafortnightagoofathirddirector,ThomasChanKui-yuen(alsoforsuspectedbribery),andthedeathofafourth,haveleftsignificantgapsinSHKP’sformerlyseven-strongboard。

Sharesintheblue-chip–whichownsdevelopmentsinChinaandSingapore,aswellasinterestsinHongKongtelecomsandbuscompanies–were“hitforsix”,diving13%inonedaylastweek,notesCitywire。

SeveralUKfundmanagers–includingHenderson,StandardLifeandMG–wereaffected。

It’seasytoseewhySHKPwasconsideredanattractivestock。

“HongKongisundoubtedlyfarlesscorruptthananyothercityinAsia,”securityexpertSteveVickerstoldCNN。

WithinHongKong,theKwokbrothershadareputationforprobity,straightdealing,andgoodqualitydevelopments。

SHKPis“oneofthebest-rundeveloperswehaveinHongKong”,saysAndrewSullivanofPiperJaffrayAsiaSecurities。

Detailsoftheallegationsthatsparkedthearrests,instigatedbyHongKong’sIndependentCommissionAgainstCorruption(ICAC),remainunclear–andneitherbrotherhasbeencharged,saystheSingaporeStraitsTimes。

ButtherearereportstheymaybelinkedtothecourtcasefiledbyWalterKwokin2008。

Atthetime,heclaimedhewas“forciblyremovedbecausehewantedtoinvestigatecertainmatterswithinthecompanyandimproveitscorporategovernance”。

Thearrestedseniorcivilservant,RafaelHui(aformerSHKPadviser),isthoughttohavetakentheyoungerbrothers’side。

Meanwhile,WalterKwokhassofarrefusedtocommentonthearrests。

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