23 October 2016
Cheng Yu-tung (right, center) is succeeded by Chung Ming-fai (left, center) as chairman of Melbourne Enterprises. Photos: HKEJ
Cheng Yu-tung (right, center) is succeeded by Chung Ming-fai (left, center) as chairman of Melbourne Enterprises. Photos: HKEJ

Why an older man succeeds Cheng Yu-tung at Melbourne Enterprises

“Age is an issue of mind over matter,” Mark Twain once said. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

This nugget of wisdom applies even to a Hong Kong-listed company.

Consider the case of real estate and jewelry magnate Cheng Yu-tung, who recently gave up chairmanship of Melbourne Enterprises because of his health condition, according to a company announcement.

The 91-year-old billionaire, who hasn’t been seen in public since 2012, has been the boss of the investment holding company for 48 years, one of Hong Kong’s longest-serving industry captains.

His replacement? Co-founder Chung Ming-fai, a 95-year-old man who has been a director of the firm since 1967.

One would think it’s an April Fool’s joke, but it isn’t. I presume Chung has been waiting for 48 years for this day to come.

But wait. There’s one other director who has long been waiting to occupy the seat as well. He’s Frederick Chung Yin-shu, son of the new chairman.

Now 71, Frederick Chung was only 23 when he joined Melbourne Enterprises, which owns two pricey office buildings in core Central — Melbourne Plaza and Kimley Commercial Building. He also serves as the company secretary.

Why the chairmanship was transferred to the father instead of the son remains a mystery.

A well-rounded corporate executive, and healthy, Frederick is in what is known as the “Prince Charles situation”. He just needs to remain tactful and patient.

There’s no reason for him to wait until he turns 95 to ascend the throne.

Aside from the Chung father and son, there are five non-executive directors at Melbourne Enterprises.

One is Robert Chung Wai-shu, who is now 67. The youngest on board is 58 years old, and the average age of the seven members is close to 75.

But don’t ever consider this a hoary, antiquated company. That it has managed to stay in the game this long gives substance to the adage that wisdom comes with age.

The company has a steady income and profit stream as well as a higher and steady stock price (at HK$133) than most blue chips.

Of course, being a listed company, the possibility of a takeover is always there. 

But don’t forget: this is an old, and wise, company.

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EJ Insight writer

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