16 October 2019
Abraham Shek feels new limits on company directorships are restrictive. Photo: Business and Professionals Alliance of Hong Kong
Abraham Shek feels new limits on company directorships are restrictive. Photo: Business and Professionals Alliance of Hong Kong

Why Abraham Shek is not too happy

Spare a thought for Abraham Shek Lai-him, who is on the verge of losing two-thirds of his directorships.

At 72, the pro-establishment legislator who sits on the boards of 15 listed companies as independent non-executive director has to give up most of his seats in the wake of a new regulatory proposal that limits individual directorship to six firms.

In what could qualify as a Guinness Record related to listed entities in the world, Shek is known to have participated in as many as 320 board meetings since 2000. 

He continued that record even after becoming a lawmaker and spending extended hours in the house, which we all know has been marked by filibustering activities in the recent past.

Amazingly, Shek rarely missed any board meeting, according to Ming Pao Finance.

The lawmaker, who had served as chief executive of the Urban Renewal Authority from 1987 to 2000, altogether sat on the boards of over two dozen listed companies and a dozen public service organizations.

Given his attendance record, we can only say that he is a meeting machine.

Talking of directorships, Shek was narrowly ahead of Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po, who had a reputation for sitting on the boards of companies his bank had significant dealings with.

The 78 year-old Li, who took up positions at bigger listed corporates in Hong Kong and once even sat on the boards Dow Jones & Co and Campbell Soup in the US, has now substantially cut down his corporate involvement. Currently, he is a director at just six firms.

Six appears to be a magic number for individual commitment on work – private or public. There is a commonly known six-year rule among government organizations for board members, although there are exceptions to be made.

It is generally regarded as a good practice because no individual – no matter how they are deemed useful for the organization – should feel like they own the empire. Having an expiry date helps keep the institution fresh, rather than old and boring.

But understandably the proposal does not sit well with Shek. He told Ming Pao that he was being targeted, and wondered why the cap was set at six, and not at any other number, without rationale.

For a change the pro-China legislator uttered remarks deemed uncharitable to the mainland, as he said the new rules from Hong Kong’s stock market operator would turn Hong Kong into Shanghai.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange has limited the maximum number of directorships to five.

Among the directors in Hong Kong-listed entities, there were 42 individuals were holding directorships in six or more firms, Ming Pao said.

Shek, who is from the Business and Professionals Alliance and represents the real estate and construction sector functional constituency seat in the Legco, was a Big Daddy among them. 

His directorships currently include China Resources Cement, Chuang’s Consortium, Cosmopolitan International, Country Garden, Goldin Financial, Hop Hing, Lai Fung, Lifestyle International, Midas International, MTR, NWS Holdings, Paliburg, Regal Portfolio Management, SJM Holdings, and Chuang’s China Investments.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer