Walter Kwok, once the chairman of Hong Kong’s largest property developer, Sun Hung Kai, passed away Saturday morning in the city’s Adventist Hospital, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
The death of Kwok, who inherited part of the Kwok family fortune and reigned as chairman of Sun Hung Properties for nearly two decades, came after the 68-year-old was felled by a stroke in late August of this year.
Sun Hung Kai, which Kwok left in 2008 and which is currently chaired by younger brother Raymond Kwok has not commented on Walter Kwok’s death.
Running the Family Business and Paying Ransom
Born into what would become one of Hong Kong’s most powerful property families in 1950, Walter Kwok took over the top role at SHK in 1990 after his father, Kwok Tak-Seng, passed away some 27 years after founding the developer in 1963.
Walter Kwok was famously kidnapped and held for ransom for seven days in 1997, and was freed only after his wife Wendy Lee paid HK$600 million in ransom to gangster “Big Spender” Cheung Tze-keung.
After the ransom was paid, Big Spender was later apprehended on the mainland and executed, but Kwok’s mental condition is said to have suffered and the billionaire, whose wealth was estimated by Bloomberg last year to be over $9 billion, is said to have lost trust in his family, believing that they were insufficiently interested in securing his freedom.
In 2008 Kwok’s mother, who controlled the family trust, together with Walter’s younger brothers Thomas and Raymond, pushed Walter Kwok into a “leave of absence” that ultimately led to his departure from the family company.
In recent years, Walter Kwok had fought to regain control of part of the family trust which made his two younger brothers the third wealthiest people in Hong Kong after fellow developers Li Ka-shing of CK Asset and Lee Shau Kee of Henderson Land.
Kwok had been hospitalised since suffering the stroke in late August.
Rebuilding an Empire
In 2014 Walter Kwok founded his own development firm in Hong Kong, Empire Group Holdings, which quickly began working with other developers in the city to take on new projects.
In February of this year Empire Group signed an agreement to redevelop the Mariners’ Club in Tsim Sha Tsui into a 340,000 square metre mixed-use project.
In early 2017 Empire Group had formed a joint venture with Sino Land to develop the HK$3 billion Ocean Park Fullerton Hotel project in southern Hong Kong island.
At the time of publication, Empire Group had yet to comment on Kwok’s passing.
Kwok is survived by his wife, Wendy and three children.