West Kowloon Cultural District Authority is expected to elevate chief operating officer Duncan Pescod to the chief executive post, signaling its aim to speed up the long-delayed and troubled cultural project.
Pescod will become the third chief executive and succeed Michael Lynch, who abruptly put in his papers in March for family reasons.
The COO stood out in a global talent hunt, and his promotion is expected to be endorsed by a board meeting next week, according to informed sources.
Unlike his two predecessors, including the first CEO Graham Sheffield who also terminated his contract after a few months of work, Pescod has no arts sector background.
However, he is an effective manager who has earned the trust of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the chairperson of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.
“He has made a big difference to West Kowloon, and simply the person needed for a long time,” said a source, as he pointed out Pescod’s leadership in establishing special task forces within the organization.
Pescod joined West Kowloon Cultural District Authority last October, six months after he quit the Housing Department where he was a director.
He won the respect of colleagues, board members and the government — especially Betty Fung Ching Shuk-yee, the permanent secretary for Home Affairs, through his actions and discussions.
In hindsight, Pescod’s quick success at work was one reason that may have led to to Michael Lynch’s early departure, a source said.
As Pescod was given more tasks than Lynch, the latter felt he was less trusted, if not cold-shouldered, by the government, according to the source.
Lynch tendered his resignation and vowed to spend more time with his family in Australia after he is relieved of his duties in late July.
Because of its unique organization culture, the government has struggled to find the right candidates who can navigate the world of performing and visual arts while knowing the hard numbers for the arts project that has seen costs spiral.
The government earmarked HK$21.6 billion for the West Kowloon Cultural District project in 2008, but the money appears to be enough only for the first phase, which includes Cantonese opera venue Xiqu Centre, museum M+, a park and an underground basement, but not the total 17 arts and cultural facilities.
Pescod is relatively new to the arts scene, and may not have enough experience in handling the various stakeholders who have been growing impatient with a project that was first mentioned in 1998 but has no physical premises to show over the years.
But luckily, the authority’s two artistic directors – Swedish national Lars Nittve for M+ and Hong Kong citizen Louis Yu Kwok-lit for performing arts – are popular in their respective fields after serving the authority for at least five years.
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