How The Kwoks Became The Second-Richest Family In Asia

We are running to eliminate Asia’s wealthiest families by 2020. Today, we’re taking a look at Asia’s second richest family: the Kivok family. Their combined net worth of $ 33 billion is taken from Sun Hung Kai Properties, the world’s second largest real estate company. Sun Hung Kai Properties is one of the largest real estate developers and landlords in Hong Kong. The family also comes with plenty of drama to add some quality to their property. Critically, however, the Kyoka family drama is like a soap opera or telenovela – they have billionaires, mistresses, feudal siblings, arrests, kidnappings, corruption charges, and suspected mental illness.

Kwok Tak-seng established Sun Hung Kai Properties in 1963. He was born in Zhongshan and moved to Hong Kong after World War II. He made his real estate firm a huge success by entering every field of property business from residential to commercial to hotel to industrial development. She was aided in part by a three-decade-long increase in the price of homes in Hong Kong. Originally, Kwok and Sun Hung Kai properties were in the right place at the right time.

Raymond, Walter and Thomas Kwok (via MIKE CLARKE / AFP Getty Images)

In Hong Kong, only a handful of families control real estate, shopping centers and utilities. The Kwok family is one of those families. A college graduate makes a starting salary of $ 25,000 in Hong Kong. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in a building owned by Kwok is going to run you over $ 4,000 per month. Hong Kong real estate is the most expensive in the world in terms of price per square foot. Sun Hung Kai Properties is the largest landowner in Hong Kong and is one of the main reasons that the cost of living in Hong Kong has skyrocketed over the past few decades.

Kwok Tak-seng had three sons, Walter, Thomas and Raymond. He died on 30 October 1990 at the age of 79. His real estate empire was given to his oldest son Walter.

Walter was kidnapped in September 1997 by the notorious underworld gangster Cheung Tje-kyung. Walter was beaten, stripped down to his underwear and kept in a wooden box. Cheung demanded $ 110 million from the Kwok family for Walter’s return. As legend has it, either Walter’s mother Kwang Siu-hing, or his wife Wendy allegedly had a secret meeting with the kidnapper. Seven days after Walter’s kidnapping, the ransom was paid for through 20 large bags of cash. Chyung was captured on mainland China and executed in 1998 by the firing squad. It is said that Walter was never the same after the abduction. Officially, he was diagnosed as bipolar.

The Walter drama does not stop there. Allegedly, the family was angry with him as he was having a detour behind his wife’s back. Not only was he cheating, but he also tried to get his mistress a seat on the board of directors of Sun Hung Kai Properties. His mistress was a lawyer he had known for over 35 years – dating back before marrying his wife, Wendy. They dated when Walter was young because his father did not approve of their relationship. He was allegedly initiated after his abduction.

So let’s revisit: kidnapping, mental illness, infidelity, and a boardroom coup. The quarrel of the Kwok family was public and incredibly bad. Walter eventually filed a defamation suit against his brothers for allegations that are not only in letters sent to his mother, but also on the board of directors of Sun Hung Kai Properties. Allegedly, Thomas and Raymond said that Walter’s bipolar disorder left him unfit for a job as president and CEO of the family business. Walter was eventually released from the family. His mother took over as president. Eventually, Thomas and Raymond became co-chairs.

In the end, the situation may be normal for the Kwok family. Except, apparently drama and hijinks are normal for this family. In March 2012, Thomas and Raymond Kwok were arrested on charges of bribery against the Corruption Commission. Between 2005 and 2007, Thomas paid Hong Kong Chief Secretary Rafael Hui $ 3.7 million. That role is the second most powerful officer. Thomas claimed that the payments were for a consulting fee but if it was true, why was he paid in cash? Thomas Kwok was sentenced to five years. Reportedly, Walter gave police the information that led to Thomas’ arrest.

Thomas Kwok was convicted in December 2014 of “conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office”. Raymond Kwok was released from all charges. Thomas was sentenced to five years in prison and a $ 500,000 fine. He immediately resigned from Sun Hung Kai Properties as chairman, managing director and executive director.

Walter Kwoke died at the age of 68 on October 20, 2018, two months after suffering a stroke. Walter’s son Geoffrey Kwok was named non-executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties in 2018. Thomas Kwok resumed the family business in 2020 after completing his prison term.

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