Founder's widow weeps over broken family

Updated: 2012-02-10 08:04

By Kahon Chan (HK Edition)

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The widow of the founder of the Yung Kee restaurant, Mak Sui-chun, said she had once opposed a proposal from her younger son to sell off the family business.

The family that owns the restaurant became locked in a bitter feud over control of the enterprise that made a profit of HK$59 million in 2009. Kinsen Kam Kwan-sing and Ronald Kam Kwan-lai were each bequested a 35-percent interest in the family business when the founder Kam Shui-fai died in 2004. Mak was granted 10 percent of the group's shares.

The widow, now 81, had run a warehouse and laundry errands for her husband at the very beginning of the enterprise. In her testimony on Thurday morning, she admitted she had never been informed that she had been a director of the restaurant's holding company since 1994.

She also recalled Ronald had proposed to sell the family business for a good price during a "morning tea" soon after her husband died in 2004. She said she responded with strong objections. Only on the following day did she learn of the shares that had been bequested to her in her husband's will, from her son Kinsen.

Outside the courtroom, Mak said two of her three children have stopped talking to her as a result of the standoff. Her routine morning tea with Ronald had been suspended since the family dispute arose in 2009. She said the telephone line of her daughter Kelly Kam was "cut off". Mak wept when speaking to reporters, as she recalled how close the family used to be. It was revealed she had settled the down payment for the first apartment of Carrel Kam Lin-wang, the son of Ronald Kam.

She refused to comment if money is the reason of the standoff. "I am not clear about that, as I don't dare to think about it. Everyone is my children," she said. "I have no idea how things changed in this way." Carrel's appointment to the board of Yung Kee Holdings Limited became a focus as Ronald Kam took the stand later in the day.

Ronald had signed a written resolution in July 2009 to amend the ordinance that paved the way for the appointment. The idea arose from legal advice he had obtained as early as February of that year. Elder brother Kinsen was never consulted before the resolution was passed. He insisted that he was "acting in accord to the proposal" and dismissed allegations that he sought majority control only after his mother's transfer of shares to his elder brother.

Kinsen Kam has appeared before the public as Yung Kee's general manager since 1973 and stated in an affidavit, Ronald argued that the title was honored only by Kinsen himself.

Ronald agreed before the court that the public has always conceived Kinsen as the successor of his deceased father, who regularly showed up at the restaurant on a daily basis before 2004, had never questioned his brother's obvious managerial role.

Ronald also "could not object" that his father might intend to formulate an equality between the two eldest sons over the control of the restaurant. The counsel for Kinsen had always stressed the "intended" equal role of the two brothers to justify a costlier offer. But Ronald stood by a discounted offer because he said he is the effective majority shareholder. The failure of mediation brought the family feud to open court.

kahon@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 02/10/2012 page1)