Mono Chan (Dr), lecturer, Department Of Management And Marketing, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
About Novel HKSAR Names
Name Category: Creation
7 optical illusions
6 hours ago
Oct 09, 2009
Grandtop International Holdings has stood by the appointment of former Hong Kong police officer Peter Pannu to a leading management position in its HK$731 million takeover of English Premier League soccer club Birmingham City.
Pannu was cleared of corruption, assault and criminal intimidation charges during his career.
A company spokesman said the former senior anti-triad officer and barrister had the legal knowledge and appropriate management experience to serve the club.
Pannu has said he will be vice-chairman of finance and executive matters, while chief operating officer Sammy Yu Wai-ying will be responsible for the soccer-playing side of the business.
In January 1993, Pannu was charged along with a colleague with accepting HK$20,000 from Sun Yee On triad boss Andely Chan Yiu-hing. Pannu was alleged to have accepted the bribe to protect the gangster, known as the "Tiger of Wan Chai", from a police operation against him.
Pannu's trial was halted more than three years later because of a missing witness and because Chan had by then been murdered. Pannu was also cleared of assault and criminal intimidation charges.
The court said missing witnesses could have helped Pannu's case and without them he could not receive a fair trial.
Former Hong Kong police detective David Fernyhough, who now heads the Hong Kong office of corporate-risk investigation firm Hill and Associates, said investigations into Pannu stemmed from a far wider investigation into the Sun Yee On's lucrative stranglehold on the entertainment industry in Tsim Sha Tsui East in the early 1990s.
During the years he was suspended from the force on full pay, Pannu completed a law degree.
A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Bar Association said Pannu was admitted as a barrister of the High Court of Hong Kong in 1997. He resigned from the police force in 2000 and finished practising as a barrister in the middle of last month.
The Grandtop spokesman said the company had no comment on previous connections between Grandtop and Carson Yeung Ka-shing, the former hairstylist turned businessman who has been the public face of the takeover.
Referring to Pannu, he said: "We have taken advantage of his knowledge and experience ... at this stage, Peter has no formal status within the club or exact position."
Former hairstylist has goals for Birmingham City
Neil Gough and Ben Kwok
Oct 05, 2009
Ten years ago, Carson Yeung Ka-shing was a struggling Kowloon hairstylist fending off lawsuits from credit card companies.
But as he arrived last week to meet the press in a conference room at the swanky Island Shangri-La hotel, dressed to the nines in a tailored white suit and a white shirt accented with silver buttons and a collar bar, Yeung, 49, looked every bit the budding billionaire.
Indeed, as his HK$731 million takeover of English Premier League football club Birmingham City nears completion, the once low-profile Yeung appears to have been catapulted firmly into the limelight.
Speculation and rumour about Yeung's background and plans for Birmingham City have abounded since his firm, Grandtop International Holdings, first bought a 29.9 per cent stake in the football club two years ago.
Until now he has held his cards close to his chest, and repeatedly declined to be interviewed for this article. However, a closer examination of Yeung's track record, Birmingham City's business prospects and previous statements by Grandtop executives yields a picture of an ambitious if expensive gamble on China's appetite for football and a test of Yeung's own talent as an entrepreneur.
Not much is known about Yeung's background before he entered the professional football business. Hong Kong companies registry filings dating back to 1991 show him living in a Tsuen Wan flat and list his occupation as a hairstylist. For several years in the 1990s, Yeung operated a hair salon in Tsim Sha Tsui East's Royal Garden Hotel, according to corporate filings and press reports.
Following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, however, Yeung appears to have run into financial trouble. In late 1998 and early 1999, several credit card companies and banks, including American Express and Hang Seng Bank (SEHK: 0011, announcements, news) , filed lawsuits seeking to enforce their claims against a modest Mid-Levels flat Yeung bought for HK$5.35 million in 1996, according to Land Registry filings.
The lawsuits appear to have been either settled out of court or dismissed since no judgments were entered into the judiciary's database.
Fast forward 10 years and Yeung today shows every sign of being a wealthy man with an increasingly diversified portfolio of investments. In addition to Grandtop's bid for Birmingham City, Yeung emerged last year as a white knight investor in ailing SMI Publishing Group.
SMI, which publishes the Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News, was having trouble paying rent and salaries until Yeung stepped in with a HK$60 million bailout loan in April last year that gave him an option to acquire up to a 62 per cent stake in the group.
Yeung, who according to press reports now lives on the Peak and is transported around town in a Maybach, is also listed in companies registry filings as a director of Universal Energy Resources Holdings, Universal Management Consultancy, Universal Properties Group Holdings and Super Promise International. However, little or no additional information is available about these privately held firms.
Asked at last week's press conference about his business interests and background, Yeung said he had several successful investments on the mainland in areas including property, resources, coal mining, gold and water supply.
"Our businesses have gone very well in China," he said. "I'm a work-hard man [sic]."
Part of Yeung's rapid rise from struggling salon stylist to media-to-mining industrialist can be explained by a keen participation in the local stock market.
In 2004, his dealings attracted a reprimand from the Securities and Futures Commission for failing to disclose a holding in Cedar Base Electronic (Group), now known as China Water Affairs Group.
The securities watchdog found that he held 25 per cent of Cedar Base on June 1, 2001, and on four other occasions had interests consisting of more than 20 per cent of the firm.
He pleaded guilty and was fined HK$43,000 and ordered to pay the SFC's investigation costs.
Yeung has also been linked to investments in small-cap Macau casino firms. Sources said he made a significant profit dealing in shares of A-Max Holdings, which bought a 49.9 per cent stake in Macau's Greek Mythology casino in March 2006.
In 2007, he also bought and sold a stake of more than 5 per cent in Kanstar Environmental Paper Products in the space of three months and later that same year he bought and sold a stake of more than 5 per cent stake in Macau casino operator Golden Resorts Group, controlled by Pollyanna Chu Yuet-wah.
Chu's Kingston Securities and Kingston Corporate Finance acted as the underwriter and financial adviser to Grandtop on its deal to raise funds for the purchase of Birmingham City.
Last year's purchase of the stake in troubled SMI appears to have been a break from Yeung's previous investments, several of which followed relatively quick buy-hold-sell patterns.
SMI's shares, which are listed on the Growth Enterprise Market, have been suspended from trading since 2005. The company booked a loss of HK$14.29 million in the final quarter of last year and has delayed reporting results since.
But the acquisition yielded other non-financial returns: Yeung's takeover bid for Birmingham City received prominent coverage in Sing Pao, including a series of glowing articles following last week's press conference that took up the first four pages of the newspaper.
One long-time Sing Pao staffer said Yeung was a frequent sight around the paper's Shau Kei Wan offices and was a "pretty hands-on guy".
Yeung sometimes sits in on editorial meetings and tells senior staff the kind of things that he likes to see in the paper, but overall he is regarded as a good boss by most of the employees. "At least he pays us on time," said the staffer.
It is not clear how Birmingham City will fit into Yeung's burgeoning empire. He is no newcomer to the football scene, having served as chairman of Hong Kong's Rangers football club from 2005 to early 2007.
But a Premier League club is a business of a different calibre entirely, and Grandtop executives have hinted at several potential plans for growing the business and tapping new revenue streams.
Birmingham City booked £49.84 million (HK$612.02 million) in revenue last year and reported a net profit of £2.59 million. However, in the six months to February, the club swung to a net loss of £2.79 million on turnover of £15.61 million.
Like most big football clubs, Birmingham City's business is supported by three main revenue streams: ticket sales, television broadcasting income and sponsorships and merchandising.
Last year, ticket sales accounted for about 42 per cent of total revenue, broadcasting accounted for 38 per cent, and sponsorships and merchandising made up only 20 per cent.
That division of revenue is much more heavily weighted towards the sponsorship and merchandising side at leading clubs such as Manchester United.
Grandtop executives say they aim to bolster Birmingham City's performance in this area, mainly by tapping into the mainland's growing appetite for the "beautiful game".
Signing new players is a stated goal, and observers wonder if some top Chinese players might soon be donning Blues' jerseys.
"With the concept of Greater China in mind, I think that next year significant profit will be brought to the group, and we are not just talking about football," Grandtop chief executive Vico Hui said last month.
"I'm sure that the income from entertainment and other segments will be very significant and I will give you good news next year."
Moreover, Birmingham City's healthy balance sheet and physical presence in England's second-largest city may offer other profit potential - perhaps as a property play.
"First, this football club is free of debt," Yeung said last week after being asked why he pursued the acquisition. "Secondly, the football club owns its own stadium, so in the future we can incorporate some commercial elements."
Still, the details of how Yeung plans to go about selling Birmingham City to the Chinese market remain largely unknown except to him and his top executives.
And for now, no one is giving away anything more than vague clues.
"Regarding the plans for Greater China, it's too early to confirm every little bit now," chief operating officer Sammy Yu said last month.
"Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool - all these successful teams have given us a very good example. We will learn from them. We are not geniuses but we will learn."
Oct 02, 2009
Harry's cartoon on September 28 carries the following lines: "Apparently, there are 1.23 million Hong Kong people in poverty". "I dread to think what wine they're drinking".
I came across an HK$18 bottle of red wine in a Tin Shui Wai public housing estate.
This was before the duty on wine was abolished. Even I could tell that it was spoiled.
C .Y. Leung, convenor, non-official member of the Executive Council
Sixty years after the founding of the People's Republic, verdicts on its flawed founder differ wildly
Oct 01, 2009
Every country is shaped by its history, but countries fabricate and rewrite their histories, too. The story of how we became who we are needs to accommodate our sense of tribal solidarity and accomplishment. Our triumphs and virtues are exaggerated; our villains externalised; our failings covered up. All this makes the study of history potentially insurrectionary, but hugely valuable. Good historians encourage us to be honest about ourselves. They destroy our self-delusions.
This is especially true of our flawed heroes, as we see today with the Chinese Communist Party's treatment of Mao Zedong . Sixty years ago this month, Mao stood on the rostrum of Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing, and declared the founding of the People's Republic. That moment marked the end of years of war and terrible hardship; the revolution had been won through blood, sacrifice, heroism, the mistakes of enemies and the manipulative assistance of Stalin, who purported to be a friend. The decades of rapacious warlords, greedy imperialists and Japanese invaders were over; China could stand up - though much misery still lay ahead as Mao's tyranny put down its roots.
Verdicts on Mao differ wildly. For hardline Communists, he was a hero three times over - historical, patriotic and world-class. For the brave and charismatic dissident Wei Jingsheng, Mao "cast virtually the whole of China into a state of violence, duplicity and poverty".
The Communist Party's official verdict, undoubtedly the product of fierce ideological disputes, is that he was a great Marxist and revolutionary, whose "gross mistakes" during the Cultural Revolution were outweighed by his contribution to China. "His merits," it argues, "are primary and his errors secondary."
China's Communist Party will not tolerate any questioning of this assessment. Mao's establishment of authority over China, his injection of patriotic pride into a land that had been appallingly sundered and humiliated by external and internal forces for a century and a half, and his romantic legend as a global revolutionary leader - all contribute to the moral and political legitimacy for which China's leaders search. What they cannot gain through democratic elections they acquire through the history of the revolution and today's economic triumphs.
But the dark side of Mao cannot be totally expunged. Too many people remember what happened. It is an intimate part of their family stories.
There was the Great Leap Forward, which led to mass starvation and perhaps as many as 38 million deaths. Then the madness of the Cultural Revolution, when millions suffered terribly, many died, and many more behaved disgracefully as Mao sought to destroy those who had rescued China from his earlier follies. Jung Chang's famous biography of Mao, published in 2005, recounts those awful events in the sort of bleak detail that makes communist propagandists nervous - and some academic sinologists critical that Mao's achievements go too little recognised.
Mao is certainly a more interesting figure than were many tyrants - a poet, an intellectual, a student of history as well as a serial philanderer, who, according to his doctor, Li Zhisui, liked to swim in water, not bathe in it. I know of no better, more fascinating "warts and all" portrait of any political leader than Li's book, The Private Life of Chairman Mao.
I remember being told a story about China that gives credence to the communist leadership's generous verdict on Mao. The mother of a Chinese journalist (now living outside the country) had been one of those who returned after 1949 to her homeland with her husband and family from a comfortable life at an American university. They regarded returning as their patriotic duty.
The family sacrificed everything. They were hit by round after round of Mao's tyrannical campaigns against "rightists", beginning with the silencing of critics after the Hundred Flowers Movement in 1957. The family lived in penury. The father died from ill-treatment during the Cultural Revolution.
But the mother never complained. She believed that her family's sacrifices were justified by the liberation and rise of China. Towards the end of her life, this mood changed. She saw in the 1990s the beginning of China's economic ascent - the early years of spectacular growth. She witnessed the return of the greed and corruption that she believed had destroyed the Kuomintang in the 1930s and 1940s. Why, she asked herself, had her family suffered so much if it was only to prepare the way for this?
Yet it is China's economic renaissance - some of whose effects so disturbed this patriotic old woman - which has been the most remarkable event in recent world history. The economic turnaround began under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, who had survived Mao's purges to follow in his footsteps and become the architect of China's rise as a world power. The hundreds of millions of Chinese who have been lifted out of poverty as a result of Deng's reforms will in time regard him as a greater hero than Mao.
But, whatever Mao's terrible failings, during his years of absolute power there was a sense of common purpose and solidarity that went with shared hardship. Maoism was a curious and unique mixture of class warfare and socialist levelling, all enunciated by a man who believed that individuals - or at least Mao himself - could shape history rather than be formed by its tides and currents.
This creed has clearly not survived its creator. Pragmatism with a Leninist face is the order of the day. The glories of getting rich have overwhelmed the deprivations of patriotic self-sacrifice. Mao made China proud. Deng made it prosperous.
What happens next? For all our sakes, I hope that the future does not derail China's economic progress, though it will be a surprise if it does not challenge its arthritic and adamantine political system.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and a former EU commissioner for external affairs, is chancellor of the University of Oxford. Copyright: Project Syndicate
Inquisitive, enterprising and resourceful journalist Joyce Man has written an engaging piece to US readers about "weird" names ad...