Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen, chairman of Lingnan University’s council, is reportedly set to be appointed the next leader of scandal-wracked MTR Corp.
MTR board chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang, whose contract should have expired at the end of 2018, was re-appointed to his post in November for another six months, or until June 30, as the government was trying to find his replacement.
Auyeung, who retired in June 2017 as chairman of Principal Financial Group – Asia, the Asia operations of a US-based investment company, is said to have been the chosen one to succeed Ma.
In August last year, Lincoln Leong Kwok-kuen, the rail operator’s chief executive, also announced his early retirement. He is set to leave once his successor is found.
In reply to queries from the Hong Kong Economic Journal about reports on succession at the MTR leadership, Auyeung said he would not comment on rumors.
Speaking to reporters before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor refused to comment on reports that Auyeung would take over Ma’s position at MTR. She said an announcement will not be made until an appropriate time.
Lam stressed that the position of MTR chairman is extremely challenging, noting that the public has high expectations of the rail operator and its services.
As such, she said, whoever assumes the position will have to work hard to restore public confidence in the company following a series of scandals, particularly those pertaining to work flaws at the construction of the Hung Hom Station extension for the Shatin-Central Link (SCL) project.
The chief executive said the government will continue to work with MTR to explore new rail projects.
Asked by media about Auyeung succeeding him, Ma said he would not answer hypothetical questions. Like Lam, he noted that whoever succeeds him will face great challenges as the SCL scandals have affected public confidence in the company, although he believes there will be time for the new chairman to deal with the issue.
The outgoing MTR chairman insisted that MTR, despite the current confidence crisis, is a very well-managed company, adding that he has done his best to communicate with the public.
Ma also declined to confirm reports that Leong’s job would be taken over by Jacob Kam Chak-pui, MTR’s managing director of operations and mainland business.
In a radio program on Tuesday, lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun of the political group Roundtable, who had chaired the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, said he understood that Auyeung was recommended by Executive Council convener Bernard Charnwut Chan. Tien said he didn’t know Auyeung well but believed he was trusted by the government.
Tien said the most crucial thing is that the next MTR chairman has political wisdom, adding that Auyeung fits the bill as he has a high emotional quotient.
He said Kam would be suitable to succeed Leong as MTR chief executive because, aside from being internally promoted, he has knowledge of construction and corporate management.
Auyeung, Kam and former MTR manager Roger Bayliss, who was appointed on Friday to replace Philco Wong Nai-keung as MTR’s new projects director, will be able to help bring a fresh look to the company, Tien said.
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