Wed, May 29, 2019 - Page 10 News List

HK developer Lee Shau-kee retires at 91


Lee Shau-kee, founder of Henderson Land Development Co, center, and his sons Martin, left, and Peter, attend a news conference after the company’s annual general meeting in Hong Kong yesterday, where his retirement was announced.

Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s second-richest man Lee Shau-kee (李兆基) yesterday stepped down as chairman of Henderson Land Development Co (恆基地產), the latest of the territory’s golden generation of billionaires to retire as their progenies take over.

The nonagenarian tycoon is among the hugely influential coterie of Hong Kong’s 20th-century oligarchs, with Lee carving his empire from a real estate market now notorious for its sky-high prices.

Ranked second on Forbes’ rich list with a fortune of US$30 billion, Lee is officially retire “due to his advanced age” after his last annual general meeting yesterday, a statement from Henderson Land Development said.

The 91-year-old is handing over the reins to his sons, Peter Lee (李家傑) and Martin Lee (李家誠), as joint chairmen and managing directors, the statement said, adding that the elder Lee would remain as an executive director.

“He can spend more time with the family now and play with his grandchildren more,” Martin Lee told reporters yesterday, speaking for his father who was not feeling well enough to talk.

The elder Lee posed for photographs and waved at reporters before his sons slowly led him out.

Lee Shau-kee started his career in currency and gold trading before moving into real estate in 1958 along with seven partners. In 1973 he struck out on his own by founding Henderson Land.

He has left his mark on Hong Kong. Henderson Land was one of the developers of the International Finance Centre, the territory’s second-tallest skyscraper.

Among more than 100 residential projects, the firm built the luxury 39 Conduit Road apartments, where in 2009 a unit sold for HK$439 million (US$56 million at the current exchange rate), a then-record price, according to the New York Times.

In 2017, the company paid a record US$3 billion for a car park in Central, which is being developed into an office building.

Hong Kong’s original billionaires are lionized in the financial hub, held up as living symbols of the territory’s economic rise and international clout, but critics also see them as the embodiment of Hong Kong’s rampant inequality, sitting at the top of enormously wealthy family dynasties who captured key sectors of the economy in a territory where many increasingly struggle to make ends meet.

Many of Hong Kong’s most famous billionaires have worked well into their 80s and 90s.

Its wealthiest tycoon, Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), 90, only retired last year, handing the baton to his oldest son, Victor Li (李澤鉅).

Gambling tycoon Stanley Ho (何鴻燊) also stepped down last year aged 96 as his daughter Daisy Ho (何超鳳) took over his flagship SJM Holdings Ltd (澳門博彩控股).

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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