What fate awaits Sun Hung Kai Properties without Thomas Kwok?
Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, co-chairman of SHKP, was found guilty of bribing Rafael Hui Si-yan, formerly Hong Kong’s No. 2 official, and was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday. Hui was jailed for seven and a half years.
His brother Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, who was acquitted of all four charges in the case, will now be the sole chairman of the property developer.
Thomas said earlier the world would still keep spinning even if he was no longer in charge.
The family has already started handing over the management of the business to his son Adam Kwok Kai-fai and nephew Edward Kwok Ho-lai (Raymond’s son).
“Although they [Adam and Edward] still have room for improvement, I am satisfied with their work so far,” Thomas told reporters before his sentence was delivered. “Let them have more time, they could do it.”
Adam was named executive director of SHKP as part of a management reshuffle last Friday. In an open letter to employees, Thomas said he hoped everyone would give their full support to his son just as they did to him.
The Kwok brothers had been preparing for the worst since the Independent Commission Against Corruption filed the charges against them.
On July 2012, when they were officially charged with bribery, SHKP named Adam and Edward Kwok alternate directors of their fathers.
It is said that even when they were still studying, the two had been working in the company as interns. They were regularly transferred from one department to another to allow them to gain more knowledge of the SHKP operations.
Adam Kwok holds a bachelor degree in management science and engineering industry from Stanford University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University.
He worked at Morgan Stanley for a while after graduation. Since 2008, he has been serving as SHKP project manager for residential and commercial projects in the Pearl River Delta.
Edward Kwok holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and a postgraduate diploma in professional accountancy from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
He worked at accountancy firm Deloitte before joining SKHP in 2010. He has been involved in the marketing of the group’s residential projects since then.
The group also appointed Mike Wong Chik-wing and Victor Lui Ting as executive directors. Both have spent more than 30 years with SHKP, and their presence can buy time for the third generation to pick things up.
So far, most analysts remain upbeat about SHKP, saying the interim management will ensure smooth daily operations and execution of the company’s strategy.
Unaffected by the trial, the SHKP has been one of the most active players this year in terms of new investments. The group has invested over HK$10 billion in six developing projects, with Phase 4 of Lohas Park in Tseung Kwan O being the largest.
The top developer has been able to maintain a strong pipeline of new projects. Property sales have already exceeded HK$30 billion this year.
But not everyone has full confidence in an SHKP without Thomas Kwok.
For one, the market has very limited knowledge about the two future bosses of the group. It is said that both Adam and Edward Kwok are very low-profile and they hardly show up for conferences.
Whether they can take charge of the property giant in the next few years is a big question.
Some are also concerned about the change in management style under Raymond Kwok’s leadership.
Given that his background is in financial control and reports that he is more aggressive in setting targets and pushing sales, SHKP staff may have a hard time adjusting to his management style.
There would be changes and uncertainties, but despite his imprisonment and the succession arrangements, it is unlikely that Thomas Kwok would fade out of the picture.
In February, when asked whether he had ever thought about retiring and passing the work to the third generation, Thomas Kwok, then 63 years old, said he would prefer to keep working until he was at least 80.
And if he finally stepped down as chairman, he said he wanted to serve as an advisor to the group.
Quite likely, Thomas Kwok will continue to participate in making major decisions from behind bars. He would also continue to play a key role after he is released from jail.
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