20 May 2019
Jimmy Lai actively participated in the pro-democracy Occupy campaign. Photo: AFP
Jimmy Lai actively participated in the pro-democracy Occupy campaign. Photo: AFP

Jimmy Lai seen shifting focus to digital media

Pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai, who quit as chairman of Next Media on Sunday, has not turned his back on the business.

Though he has resigned from the company, Lai will continue to work in the industry, but shift his focus to digital communications and media development, Apple Daily reported on Tuesday.

Hong Kong watchers have speculated that Lai’s move was aimed at keeping his media empire from being associated with his personal advocacies such as his participation in the Occupy campaign which ended on Monday after 79 days of protests.

Investors seem to agree with his decision. Next Media’s stock price jumped by as much as 6.2 percent on Monday, taking its market value to HK$1.65 billion (US$212.82 million). Lai still holds a 75 percent stake in the company.

In a regulatory filing, Next Media said Lai wanted “to spend more time with his family and further pursue his personal interests”.

Lai declined to elaborate when the newspaper asked him about his plans, while several senior officials of Next Media said they were not aware of Lai’s “personal interests”.

Mark Simon, a top aide to Lai, said personal interests probably referred to other commercial projects. Asked if Lai will pursue a career in politics, Simon said he had never heard about it from Lai.

Next Media executive director Ip Yut-kin, who will succeed him as Apple Daily editor in chief, said he does not think Lai will enter politics.

Ip also said the newspaper’s support for democracy and freedom will never change despite Lai’s resignation.

Lai believes that society has been split by the people’s different views on democracy, and a media company has the responsibility to keep it united, Ip said.

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