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Sat, May 17, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Family feud over HK property giant headed to court

AFP , HONG KONG

The chairman of one of the world's largest property firms has begun legal action against his two brothers, Hong Kong court documents show, the latest twist in a long-running feud at the family-run firm.

Walter Kwok (郭炳湘), chairman and chief executive of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd (新鴻基地產), who has been on leave from the company for three months, filed a writ to Hong Kong’s High Court on Thursday.

The writ was placed just before a board meeting that was expected to vote on ousting Kwok, Sun Hung Kai said in a statement.

In the court documents, Kwok said his two brothers, Raymond Kwok (郭炳聯) and Thomas Kwok (郭炳江), who are both vice chairmen and managing directors of Sun Hung Kai, had falsely tried to get a doctor to assert he had a mental disorder.

“The diagnosis made ... of bipolar affective disorder was also heavily based on misinformation as to the daily disposition of Walter Kwok supplied by Thomas Kwok and Raymond Kwok,” the writ said.

The writ also said that Walter Kwok had agreed to take three months leave of absence starting February, on the basis that he sought independent medical opinions on his condition.

The document said that three doctors had given him the all-clear last month.

“Each practitioners expressed the view that Walter Kwok was not suffering from any mental disorder,” the document stated.

However, Raymond Kwok contacted the doctors and “attempted to persuade them of the inaccuracy of their diagnoses in advance of their preparation of written reports.

The practitioners declined to do so,” the writ stated.

Sun Hung Kai said in a statement the court had granted the injunction to stop Thursday’s meeting.

A full hearing will be heard next Friday.

“The company is presently seeking legal advice and its day-to-day operations will continue as usual,” a spokesman said. “In the meantime, Mr Walter Kwok remains on leave of absence.”

The family feud has drawn headlines in the Hong Kong since February, with media reports saying that Walter was ordered by his mother, octogenarian Kwong Siu-hing (鄺肖卿), to step down.

The rift is allegedly caused by his involvement with a female friend who has become increasingly influential in the firm and on himself, a married man.

Kwong, who has never had an official position at the company, is believed to have an influential role behind the scenes.

The news of the legal battle saw the company’s stock price drop in early trading yesterday by 1.98 percent.

The family-run business has made its fortune from investing in Hong Kong’s property market, and in recent years has expanded its operations into China.

Its most famous building is Hong Kong’s tallest, the International Finance Centre Two.

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