Lee Shau Kee, chairman of Henderson Land Development and one of Hong Kong’s wealthiest men, proposes to step down from his role at the head of the company that he founded, according to an announcement today to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Having just reached his 90th birthday earlier this month, Lee is proposing to hand over control of the company to his sons at Henderson’s next board meeting on May 28th, according to the statement, where a resolution will be introduced to appoint Peter Lee Ka-kit and younger son Martin Lee Ka-shing as directors and co-chairmen of the top five Hong Kong developer.
Lee’s announcement, which cites his age as a reason for the transition, comes just over one year after his contemporary and competitor, Li Ka-shing turned over the reins at developer CK Asset Holdings and other companies in the Cheung Kong and Hutchison universe to son Victor Li.
With New World Development founder Cheng Yu-tung having passed away in 2016, the last of Hong Kong’s original generation of property tycoons are now turning over control of one of the world’s most valuable, and most closely held, real estate markets to their property scions.
Building a Property Empire in Post-War Hong Kong
Originally from Shunde, in China’s Guangdong province, Lee moved across the border into Hong Kong in the years following World War II and founded Henderson Land in 1976. He took the company public on the Hong Kong exchange in 1980 and is estimated to own more than 70 percent of the company at this time.
Henderson Land, which paid HK$23.3 billion ($3 billion) to buy a site on Murray Road in Hong Kong’s Central district in 2017, announced in its 2018 financial results, which were also released today, that it had nearly HK$379 billion in assets at the end of last year, and had earned profit attributable to equity shareholders of over HK$31.1 billion.
During 2018, Henderson did little to indicate that its founder might step away from the controls, acquiring a pair of Kai Tak residential sites from HNA in February for just over HK$6 billion, and taking a share in a third Kai Tak acquisition in November. The company also has some 30 Hong Kong redevelopment projects in the pipeline where it owns at least 80 percent of the property and another 30 projects in Hong Kong and Kowloon where it owns between 20 and 79 percent of the property.
In addition to its Hong Kong holdings, which include a stake in the IFC project which it co-developed with Lee’s former co-workers at Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson has extensive holdings in mainland China, where it has developed the World Financial Centre in Beijing, the Henderson Metropolitan in Shanghai, and many other commercial and residential projects.
A Post-War Hong Kong Tycoon Leaves the Stage
Besides his ownership of Henderson Land, Lee, whose personal fortune is estimated by Forbes to total some $30.6 billion, also controls a number of other businesses in Hong Kong including serving as chairman of the Hong Kong and China Gas Company, chairman of Miramar Hotel and Investment, and is also a vice chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties.
Lee co-founded Sun Hung Kai in 1972 with the late Kwok Tak Seng, father of current SHK chairman Raymond Kwok. Lee also frequently collaborated on projects with New World’s Cheng Yu-tung before his fellow Shunde native passed away nearly three years ago.