Everyone in Hong Kong knows Yung Kee Goose Restaurant for two reasons – their delicious roast meats and its ongoing family feud. The infamous fight over the restaurant’s ownership had reached a dramatic climax when the Court of Final Appeal released a statement announcing that Yung Kee might possibly be wound up. The fate of Yung Kee will be sealed in 26 days and only an agreement amongst the descendants can prevent it from being auctioned.
Founder Kam Shui-fai built the restaurant empire from scratch and converted a humble eatery to a billion-dollar establishment. Today, the 73-year-old restaurant’s worth is estimated at HK$1.5 billion.
Unfortunately, the death of Shui-fai in 2004 soon triggered a bitter war between the heirs Kinsen Kam Kwan-sing and Ronald Kam Kwan-lai. The biological brothers have been involved in a series of high-profile court cases over the dispute of shares.
The family-owned business has been in spotlight for many years and the turbulent politics were eventually sparked off by the imbalance possession of shares. Both brothers Kinsen and Ronald initially inherited 35% each of Yung Kee’s shares.
Kinsen’s mother, Mak Siu-Chun, had given Kinsen her 10%, while Ronald purchased the other 20% from his younger siblings. As a result, Ronald owned 55% of the overall shares while Kinsen possessed the remaining 45%.
Who would have thought that the 10% difference of shares could result in fallout of the entire Kam family! Things escalated quickly when Ronald implemented changes to Yung Kee Holdings Limited’s board of directors, where Kinsen had been unfairly excluded in the management.
Kinsen had simultaneously offered to buy out Ronald’s shares or sell his shares, but neither happened. Kinsen then took it to court in 2010 to file for a petition against Ronald.
Kinsen’s petition in 2010 to force Ronald to buy his shares or have Yung Kee wound up was unsuccessful, as the court had no jurisdiction to take such orders. Kinsen passed away in 2012 in the midst of the lawsuit, and the ordeal spurred his sons – Hardy and Kevin – to severe ties with Ronald’s family.
Hardy and Kevin went on to open their own eateries – Kam’s Roast Goose and Kam’s Restaurant – while their mother, Leung Sui-kwan had decided to not let the matter rest. This time, her appeal was a success.
Yung Kee will be automatically placed under a wind-up process if neither parties can come to a solution – whereby one side will have to buy out the other. Even the Kam family’s third generation are involved in this dramatic episode and both sides have spoken up about the long battle. Ronald’s son had proclaimed that they “have given [Kinsen's family] an offer” but were rejected. That statement was then rebutted by Hardy who said, “they didn’t give us a price”.
Torn apart by money and power, communication breakdown and accumulated discontentment are evident in the estranged family. Shui-fai’s mother had even allegedly blamed Ronald as being the cause of Kinsen’s passing.
For better or for worse, the long battle over the ownership of Yung Kee restaurant might soon end in a month’s time, but at a hefty price of having the family company placed on auction by the appointed liquidator.
However, even if a winding-up order is in progress, Yung Kee’s daily operations will not be interrupted.
Read: Kam’s Roast Goose (by Hardy Kam) is better than Yung Kee Roast Goose Restaurant.