Edward T.T. Chan (陳德泰, 1918-1981) and Tai Cheung – HK Real Estate Pioneer
York Lo: Edward T.T. Chan (陳德泰, 1918-1981) and Tai Cheung – HK Real Estate Pioneer
Left: Edward TT Chan in the 1970s (HK Scouting Gazette); Right: Tai Cheung ad in 1957 promoting its new development at the former site of I-Feng Enameling at 473 Castle Peak Road. The slogan reads “Tai Cheung’s buildings, the most reliable” and a 500 sq ft flat is being offered at $9400 (WKYP, 1957-12-4)
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Edward Chan Tak-tai was a force to be reckon with in the HK real estate industry. A pioneer who revolutionized the industry alongside his friends Henry Fok and K.C. Pang (to be covered) in the 1950s, his Tai Cheung Properties was known as one of the “Five Tigers of HK Chinese Developers” alongside Cheung Kong, SHK Properties, Hang Lung and Hopewellin the 1970s and major landowners such as Hutchison, Swire and Hysan all partnered with him on major projects leveraging his property development expertise. He is also remembered for his philanthropy, especially his efforts leading his alma mater Lingnanin Hong Kong.
Background and Real Estate Pioneer in the 1950s
Left: Edward TT Chan in 1959 (HKBCA Yearbook); Right: three Tai Cheung properties in 1957 (l to r) – Coronet Court in North Point, Maidstone Apartments in To Kwa Wan and Ma Tau Wai Apartments
Born in Canton in 1918, Chan was a native of Zhaolian in Xinhui and his father Chan Sum-po (陳森寶) was a businessman. As a child, he studied Chinese classics under the teacher Yim Sin-kun (嚴仙根) before enrolling in theLingnan secondary school in the Sai Kwan district of Canton. He earned his B.S. in engineering from Lingnan University in Canton in 1940 and worked as a training engineer for the Canton-Hankow Railway. After the War, Chan went into the construction business in Hong Kong and in 1952 established Tai Cheung Construction (大昌建築, although the firm was not incorporated until 1956)to develop properties. Aside from Tai Cheung, Chan was also involved in Tai Lung Construction (大隆建築置業) in the 1950s in partnership with Chan Tseng-Hsi (who later started Hang Lung), Lam Yu-hang (林汝珩1907-1959) and brothers Hong Tung-tick (康同倜) and Hong Lap-hing (康立卿) – the nephews of reformer Kang Yu-wei.
Left: Article about Edward Chan’s daughter in 1954; Right: Tai Cheung ad of Empire Theatre Building
Another ad of 473 Castle Peak Road in SSP with prices for each floor (WKYP, 1957-12-27)
Both Chan and Henry Fok were attributed for pioneering the concept of selling properties by floors and individual units and by installments in HK in the early 1950s which democratized home ownership and laid the foundation for the development of the HK real estate industry. Prior to that, properties were mainly bought and sold by entire buildings in one lumpsum. Tai Cheung did extremely well in the 1950s with the soaring housing demand and like Henry Fok’s National Investment grew rapidly as buildings were pre-sold before they were built to finance their construction. By 1954, the 36 years old Eddie Chan was already elected a director of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (status of Chinese leaders at the time) and his daughter’s one-month banquet was attended by the Who’s Who of HK society as shown in the article above.
In 1957, Tai Cheung had large number of properties available for sale – including Maidstone Apartments (美善同大廈)and Ma Tau Wai Apartments (馬頭圍大廈) in To Kwa Wan and 473 Castle Peak Road in Sham Shui Po at the former site of the I-Feng Enameling plant. These units sold well as they were affordable ($10000-20000 per flat and payments over 2 years) and aggressively marketed (newspaper ads with cartoons as shown below). Around the same time,Tai Cheung also entered North Point – a district dominated by Li Hong-chit’s Lynhall Land and K.C. Wong’s Dah Yuan Real Estate (see articles) and developed Coronet Court and Empire Theatre Building (璇宮戲院大廈,apartment building next to the famous Empire Theatre, later renamed State Theatre, see article on Li Shiu-chung). This move allegedly was not welcomed by the likes of Li Hong-chit.
Tai Cheung ad about 700 sq ft flats in Tsim Sha Tsui (likely Mirador Mansion) being offered at $17000 in 1957. Amenities highlighted include Rediffusion cable access, air conditioners and color tiled bathrooms. The cartoons on the right look like Old Master Q but predate the launch of the cartoon series by a few years (WKYP, 1957-10-25)
Tai Cheung’s ad for Mirador Mansion in 1957 which described the project as “one of the grandest in Southeast Asia” (WKYP, 1957-8-21)
The biggest project during this period which Tai Cheung undertook however was the Mirador Mansion (美麗都大廈) on the Golden Mile in Tsim Sha Tsui, which was completed in 1959. According to the biography of Henry Fok by Ling Xia (who had interviewed Fok), Eddie Chan ran into liquidity issues in 1958 after the government imposed new regulations which required developers to put up higher levels of capital in each project.Upon examining Tai Cheung’s properties which were all selling, HSBC bailed out the firm with a $30 million loan. This experience resulted in a more conservative approach for the firm in the 1960s, which helped it weather the banking crisis during the turbulent decade.
Growing Through Partnerships in the 1960s and 1970s
In 1960, Tai Cheung moved its office from 45 Queen’s Road Central to the top floor of the Central Building in Central, which was developed by a consortium led by Hui Oi-chow and Pang Kwok-chan of Goodyear Estates (to be covered) and Eddie Chan was likely an investor as well.Around that time, Tai Cheung had acquired the Ma Tau Kok site of Nanyang Cotton Mills (which had relocated to Kwun Tong) and re-developed the site into residential units in the area which had become known as “Thirteen Streets”. The firm also acquired a 200,000 sq ft site in Tai Kok Tsui in the early 1960s from the HK & Whampoa Dock Co and in 1963 announced plans to develop 4000 residential units – it was so popular that allegedly the first 1000 units of the project were snapped up before they even put out an advertisement.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Tai Cheung adopted a new strategy of growing through partnerships with major landowners rather than the riskier approach of bidding on land on its own. This strategy, which required less capital and provided access to prime real estate locations, was highly valued by the market at the time andwhen Edward Chan listed his Tai Cheung Properties Ltd (incorporated in August 1972) on the Far East Stock Exchange in December 1972, raising HK$50 million by offering 12.5 million new shares at $4 per share, the deal was underwritten by three leading British merchant banks – Jardine Fleming, Slater Walker Hutchison and Wardley (HSBC). Directors of the firm at IPO include his Lingnan schoolmates – Pang Kwok-chan of Goodyear Estates(嘉年地產) and Woo Chan-sum (鄔振森) who had worked for him since 1955 and would serve on the board until 2000. During the stock market boom of 1973, Tai Cheung conducted 15 follow-on offerings and swapped shares with other developers such as SHK Properties (新鴻基地產), Tai Shing Development (泰盛發展), Lee Hing Development (利興發展) and Goodyear Estates.
Ad for Kwan Yick Building which was developed in 1974 (Source: Tai Cheung website)
The three key strategic partners of Tai Cheung in the 1970s were Hutchison, Swire and Hysan. Hutchison International (和記國際) as mentioned in other articles before was growing rapidly through acquisitions in the 1960s under the leadership of former BAAG agent Sir Douglas Clague (祈德尊, 1917-1981). As the HK real estate market took off, Clague was particularly interested in re-developing the valuable waterfront sites of Hutchison’s affiliate Whampoa Dock (黃埔船塢) in Tai Kok Tsui, Hunghom and Aberdeen and found Eddie Chan and Tai Cheung the ideal partner to bring these projects to life with his property development expertise.
Tai Cheung and Whampoa formed City & Urban Properties Ltd (城都地產) in 1969 and listed the firm in 1973, with Whampoa owning 50% and Tai Cheung owning 25% after the IPO. The first completed project was the residential property United Building (聯盛大廈) in Hunghom in 1972. Between 1974 and 1976, City & Urban through Cosmopolitan Estates (大同置業) developed the housing complex of the same name – Cosmopolitan Estates (大同新邨), which consisted of fifteen 12 story residential buildings at the former site of the Cosmopolitan Dock in Tai KokTsui. In 1976-78, C&U developed Whampoa Estate (黃埔新邨), a large private housing project comprised of 25 buildings in part of Whampoa Dock’s Hunghom site. Chan was also a director of Hutchison affiliate China Provident Co and Tai Cheung helped to re-develop China Provident’s massive godown in Shek Tong Tsui into the Kwan Yick Building in 1974.
Aside from the re-development projects listed above, Tai Cheung was also involved in the development of the Hutchison group’s 22 story headquarters -Hutchison House (和記大廈) in Central which was completed in 1974. The building was valued at HK$131 million at the time and Tai Cheung owned a 25% stake. Tai Cheung also acquired a 35% interest in the Sheraton Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, which was developed by American developer Crow Pope and Hutchison in the early 1970s and maintain this stake to this day.
The Hutchison group got into financial troubles in the mid-1970s and HSBC which took over the firm installed Bill Wyllie (see Harpers article) in 1975 to replace Clague as the head of the firm. The partnership between Tai Cheung and Hutchison came to an end in 1979 with Tai Cheung Properties acquiring the 55% of City & Urban it did not own forHK$310 million (as a result C&U was delisted)and selling its 25% interest in Hutchison House to Hutchison Whampoa for HK$110 million.The same year, Cheung Kong acquired Hutchison Whampoa and subsequently developed Whampoa Gardens.
Like Hutchison, Swire was interested to re-develop its Tai Koo Dock (太古船塢) in Quarry Bayand entered into partnership with Tai Cheung to leverage Chan’s expertise.In 1973, Tai Cheung and Swire acquired a small listed developer Kien Shing Development (健誠置業), which they renamed Swire Cheung Development (太古昌發展). Swire Cheung was involved in the development of the first phase of Tai Koo Shing (太古城) known as Tsui Woo Terrace which was completed in 1977 and comprised of three 28 story residential buildings. The same year however, the Swire Group decided to consolidate all of its real estate holdings and through Swire Properties acquired Tai Cheung’s stake in Swire Cheung.
The third strategic partner of Tai Cheung in the 1970s was the Lee Hysan family. According to Building Bridges, the biography of R.C. Lee written by his daughter Vivienne Poy, Edward Chan was introduced to R.C. Lee in the early 1970s by Douglas Clague. However, group subsidiary Tai Cheung Hotels (Holding) Ltd which was incorporated in 1963 was involved in the development of the Lee Garden Hotel which opened in 1970. As major landowner in Causeway Bay since 1923, the Lee family was relatively conservative in the 1950s and 1960s and ramped up its effort in the 1970s in partnership with Tai Cheung with the development of 1 Hysan Avenue (希慎大廈, completed in 1976) and Leighton Centre (禮頓中心, completed in 1977). As a result of these involvements, Tai Cheung became a minority shareholder of Hysan Development, but eventually sold out of its stake after the firm went public in 1981.
In addition to properties mentioned above, other projects which were completed by Tai Cheung Properties while Eddie Chan was alive in the 1970s include the industrial building Freder Centre (飛達工商業中心) in To Kwa Wan, the residential buildings – Tonnochy Towers (1975) in Wanchai, the Tai Hing Building (大興大廈,1979) and Wing Hing Building (永興大廈,1980) in Yuen Long, Cheung Ling Mansion (昌寧大廈,1980) in Sai Ying Pun and Federal Mansion (聯邦閣,1981) in Cheung Sha Wan and the office building Lee May Building (利美大廈,1980) at 788-790 Nathan Road.
Philanthropy and Death
Outside of business, Edward Chan was well known for his philanthropy and in addition to Tung Wah, he had served as director of Po Leung Kuk, HK Housing Society, Chung Chi College, United College and Lingnan College of Business at Chinese University. However, he was perhaps best known for his involvement with his alma mater Lingnan, first as the chairman of the Lingnan Alumni Association in HK and later as chairman of the Lingnan Educational Organization. Under his leadership, Lingnan College was established in 1967 and he donated the 12 story Edward Hall on its Stubbs Road campus. He also recruited foreign scholars and administrators to the college and help established the Lingnan Alumni Association (HK) Primary School in Sham Shui Po in 1964 and Lingnan Dr. Chung Wing-kwong Memorial Secondary School in Kwai Chung in 1978. For his community involvement, he was appointed an unofficial Justice of the Peace.
Edward Chan unveiling the foundation stone of Edward Hall at Lingnan College
Baptized as a Christian in August 1968, Edward TT Chan died in Los Angeles on August 18, 1981 at the age of 63 and was survived by his wife Poon Wai-kuen (潘慧娟), one son and two daughters. A memorial service was held at St. John’s Cathedral on August 31 which was attended by the Who’s who of the HK business community. His son David Chan Pun (陳斌, 1951-), who had joined Tai Cheung after graduation from MIT in 1972, succeeded him as chairman of Tai Cheung (the youngest chairperson of a listed company at the time at the age of 30). Like his father, David Chan has been a generous supporter of educational causes such as Lingnan, Pei Hua Education Foundation and Hua Xia Foundation and donated the Chan Tak Tai Auditorium at the Lingnan University campus in Tuen Mun in memory of the real estate pioneer.
Left:Tai Cheung Properties’ announcement of the passing of Edward Chan and the appointment of David Chan as new chairman and Ivy Chan Cheng as director in 1981 (Kung Sheung Daily News, 1981-8-20); Right: 78ai Cheung ad for Tai Hing Building in Yuen Long in 1979 (WKYP, 1979-10-16)
David Chan signing the contract on behalf of Tai Cheung with Gammon for the foundation work of an industrial building in Chai Wan in 1981 (WKYP, 1981-1-29)
WKYP, 1960-7-3, 1963-8-26, 1981-8-30, 1981-9-1
香港工商日報, 1973-10-30, 1972-11-25
This article was first posted on 19th November 2018.
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