Eternal Enterprise (永業有限公司) – the precursor of Sun Hung Kai and its shareholders aside from the SHK trio
York Lo: Eternal Enterprise (永業有限公司) – the precursor of Sun Hung Kai and its shareholders aside from the SHK trio
Before the legendary Kwok Tak-seng (郭得勝, 1911-1990), Fung King-hey (馮景禧, 1922-1985) and Lee Shau-kee (李兆基, 1929-) formed Sun Hung Kai in 1963, the trio started their first real estate partnership in the form of Eternal Enterprise Co Ltd, which was incorporated in October 1958 with five additional shareholders. Within five years before the trio branched off to form SHK, Eternal had developed over 40 residential and industrial properties in Hong Kong and Kowloon, representing over 3000 individual units, making it one of the most active property developers in HK at the time. The firm also operated the Shatin Heights Hotel (沙田大酒店) on Taipo Road in Shatin, which was popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
Eternal Enterprise – the Prequel of a Real Estate Giant (1958-1969)
Left: The three musketeers of Sun Hung Kai who were also the driving force of Eternal Enterprise. Left to right: Fung King-hey, Kwok Tak-seng, Lee Shau-kee. Right: Article about Eternal offering coupons to its buyers in 1964 with its logo (KSDN, 1964-12-31)
Since the life of Kwok, Fung and Lee are well covered in the press (the author has also written the biographical entries for Kwok and Fung in the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography published by HKU Press in 2011), this article will focus on the lesser known history of Eternal and the other five shareholders of the firm.
According to the biography of Lee Shau Kee, he befriended Kwok and Fung in the early 1950s as they were all in the trading business and despite of the age differences between the three (Kwok was almost two decades older than Lee), they became close friends and shared the same passion about the prospects of the real estate market in Hong Kong. As real estate development required significant capital, they reached out to five other businessmen led by Lee’s fellow Shunde native and trader Seaward Woo to start Eternal. While the trio were the driving force of Eternal as the other five had their own businesses, Woo served as chairman of the firm which operated out of the third floor of 16 Stanley Street in Central, a property held by him and his family since at least the 1940s.
Left: Shatin Heights Hotel in the 1960s; Right: matchbox from the Shatin Heights Hotel
One of Eternal’s first moves was the acquisition of the Shatin Heights Hotel in 1959 for over $1 million. The four-story hotel was built on a 40,000 sq ft site on a knoll 200’ above sea level which had spectacular views of the Tolo harbor and Shatin Valley and had been opened three years earlier in 1956. (FEER) After the acquisition, Fung King-hey stepped in as supervisor of the hotel with Ip Ching as manager and Mrs. Reynold as sales manager. He renovated and added rooms and opened a nightclub featuring a band and a British singer. Its outdoor restaurant became a popular destination for locals and foreign visitors and the hotel along with the Carlton Hotel on the same road were popular getaways for guests who wanted a departure from the hustle and bustle of the downtown hotels in HK and Kowloon. (KSDN, 1959-8-8)
Left: Eternal’s ad for its project at 54-56 Un Chau Street in 1962. The creative ad included ten selling points of the property (KSDN, 1962-9-28)
Aside from the SHK trio, staff at Eternal included a dozen people, including Law King-wan (1936-2019), a fellow Shunde native who later followed the trio to SHK where he served as executive director for many years. In 1962, Eternal developed an 8-story tenement building at 54-56 Un Chau Street in Sham Shui Po with flats from 580-720 sq ft available at $20000 or 3 years of monthly installments of $480-630. It also built the 12-story King Yip Building (景業大廈) at the intersection of Tai Po Road and Nam Cheong Street, a 9-story building at 13-31 Pine Street in Tai Kok Tsui and a 7-story tenement building at 15-17 Morrison Hill Road in Wanchai. (WKYP, 1962-6-27; KSDN, 1962-7-31, 1962-9-12) In 1962-63, the firm jointly developed a 10 story Lai Sun Industrial Building in Kwai Chung in partnership with Lim Por-yen’s Lai Sun Garments which comprised of 6 floors of factory space, 3 floors of godowns and top floor being dormitory. (See ad below)
Ad for the new industrial building in Kwai Chung jointly developed by Eternal and Lai Sun Garments in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-2-8)
Five years after the formation of Eternal, Kwok, Fung and Lee wanted to go bigger into real estate than the other five shareholders and established Sun Hung Kai in 1963, taking several staff with them.
Left: Eternal ad for various properties in San Po Kong and Sham Shui Po (WKYP, 1965-2-20); Right: Sketch of Eternal’s Sun Kei Building in 1965 (KSDN, 1965-1-19);
Eternal continued to develop properties in the next couple of years after the establishment of SHK. In 1963, the firm developed the 12-story Hung Cheong Factory Building (鴻昌工廠大廈) on the intersection of Cheung Sha Wan Road and Kwong Cheung Street which includes 8 floors of factory space and 4 floors of residential space on the top floors for staff of the factories, which according to the ad posted by Eternal was a first in HK. (WKYP, 1963-6-2) In 1964, it developed a Chinese tenement building at 102-105 Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po with 900 sq ft flats available for monthly installments of $400. (KSDN, 1964-10-22) In 1965, the firm developed Sun Kai Mansion (新基大樓) at 34-46 Hennessy Road in Wanchai, which was half sold out within ten days. (KSDN, 1965-1-19) Based on the ad above, other properties offered by Eternal in 1965 included flats on Kam Wing Street and Hin Hing Street in San Po Kong, 106 Pak Ho Street, 9, 11, 151 and 153 Un Chau Street in Sham Shui Po.
Part of Eternal’s success was being innovative. In 1964 for example, the firm issued $500 coupons to past and present buyers of Eternal properties, one of the first firms to do so. (KSDN, 1964-12-31) When the banking crisis hit in 1965, most banks in HK were experiencing bank runs and cash level were tight. In response, Eternal came up with a special plan which allowed buyers to pay with certificate of deposits instead of cash. In addition, the firm also included $10 million worth of properties in the the 7.5% mortgage scheme offered by HK Building & Loans which did not require income verification and proof of life insurance from the buyer with no restrictions on sale and rental. (KSDN, 1965-8-18) The same year, the firm was involved in the development of New Central Building at the intersection of Gage Street and Aberdeen Street in Central as shown in below ad and Fook Sing Factory Building (福星工廠大廈) at 2 Walnut Street in Tai Kok Tsui. (KSEN, 1965-9-6)
Eternal’s ad for New Central Building in 1965. Bottom ad is for Alhambra’s Yuet Wah Building and residential building in Chung Hum Kok. (WKYP, 1965-7-20)
In 1969, Eternal developed Man Wing Building at 503-507 Nathan Road and Victorious Factory Building (百勝工廠大廈) on Tseuk Luk Street in San Po Kong as shown in the ads below. As the partners of Eternal parted ways, there were no records of the firm’s development activities after 1970.
1969 joint ad by Sun Hung Kai and Eternal for Man Wing Building on Nathan Road. (KSEN, 1969-2-8)
Eternal’s ad for Victorious Factory Building in San Po Kong in 1969 (KSDN, 1969-7-16)
Shatin Heights Hotel continued to operate until the late 1970s and in 1983, it was re-developed by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Sun King Fung Development (Fung King-hey’s property development firm) into the 85-unit residential complex Shatin Heights (沙田花園), generating $300 million in proceeds which represent a 300 times returns from its original investment 24 years earlier. As a firm, Eternal Enterprise Co Ltd was dissolved in 2001.
The Other Five Shareholders of Eternal and their Families
The other five shareholders of Eternal outside of the SHK trio were Seaward Woo, Lui In-Tso, Shiu-Hin Wong, Chik Chung-wong (戚宗煌) and Kwok Kam-to (郭錦濤). Little information is available about the last two, other than the fact that Chik worked for Woo as manager of Kailey (Directory of HK, Macao and Canton, 1949) and Kwok died in May 1977 at the age of 66 with the address of Kwok Tak-seng’s Hung Cheong listed as corresponding address in the obituary so it is likely they were partners in that business and could possibly be relatives. Below are the profiles of the first three and their families:
Seawood Woo (胡兆熾, 1905-1983) and Family
Left: Seaward Woo at a Helene Curtis wave machine demonstration in 1951; right: Seaward Woo (right) with Gerald Gidwitz, the founder of Helene Curtis and his wife in HK in 1959 (WKYP, 1959-4-26);
In addition to serving as the chairman of Eternal, Seaward Woo was chairman of H.G. Kailey & Co (騏利洋行) and Po Yuen Enterprises (寶源貿易, incorporated in 1962, dissolved in 2012). The staff of these two firms together with staff of Eternal, Kwok Tak-seng’s Hung Cheong (see article) and Hung Fat Construction & Investment Co Ltd (鴻發置業, incorporated in 1961) held a joint Chinese New Year celebration at the City Hall in January 1966, highlighting the closeness of the relationships between these firms. (KSEN, 1966-1-24)
Born in Canton in 1905, Woo established the import export firm of H.G. Kailey & Co in HK in 1931 (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1956) which became the HK agent of National Mineral, a Chicago-based haircare product manufacturer started by Gerald Gidwitz and Louis Stein a few years before in 1927. National had developed a line of machine-less waving pads which simplified the permanent wave process as customers no longer had to sit in hair salons for hours on end and through the distribution of the pads and other products, Woo helped to popularize hair perming in HK.
Ad for Helene Curtis wave machine by Kailey in 1949 (WWII HK Special Constabulary, Special Edition, 1949)
After the War, National renamed itself Helene Curtis (named after the first names of Louis Stein’s wife and son) and Kailey became the sole agent in HK, Malaysia and Singapore for Helene Curtis products which by then included “Spray Net” hairspray and “Suave” brand shampoo. In the 1950s, Kailey diversified into the export of gloves, knitwear, wigs, electrical appliances and hardware. The Singapore branch was run by Seaward’s daughter Gloria Woo Mo-lan (胡慕蘭) and her husband Lie Kim-gwan (李金源), both graduates of the University of Edinburgh and in November 1967, Kailey opened a factory to manufacture Helene Curtis products in Singapore with Finance Minister Goh Keng-swee as guest of honor at the opening ceremony. (Nanyang Siang Pau 1967-11-12)
In 1961, the Woo family established Key Hing Enterprises (騏興企業) to engage in property development in HK. In 1972, the Woo family changed the name of Key Hing to Kailey Enterprises (騏利企業) and took the company public on the Far East and Kam Ngan stock exchanges through the issuance of 5 million shares. At the time, the firm’s assets were assessed at $17 million and included Kailey House in Central, residential/commercial buildings on Kimberley Road and Hankow Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and other properties in Portland Street, Sai Yeung Choi Street, Cheong Ming Street and Prince Edward Road in Kowloon. (WKYP, 1972-10-5) Over time, Kailey had developed at least four properties named after the famous brand their fortune was built on – Helene Court (1987, Shouson Hill), Helene Garden (1982, Stanley) and the 16-story Helene Tower (1994, Repulse Bay) and Helene Terrace in Yuen Long.
Left: Seaward Woo (left) and Helene Curtis founder Gerald Gidwitz exchanging souvenirs celebrating 50 years of partnership at the golden anniversary of the Kailey group in 1981; Right: Woo Po-shing and his wife Helen Fong and son Wilson and daughter in law.
Outside of business, Seaward Woo was active in community affairs having served as chairman of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1954, co-founder and chairman of the HK Anti-Tuberculosis Association and was very involved with the Shun Tak Fraternal Association which he donated the STFA Seaward Woo College in Homantin in 1975. For his contributions to the community, he was awarded the OBE and appointed unofficial Justice of the Peace. Seaward had one wife (Ng Chiu-man, who succeeded him as chair of Kailey Group) and two concubines (Leung Siu-mei and Lee Yung-fong) who gave him three sons and twelve daughters. His eldest son Sir Woo Po-shing (胡寶星, 1929-) who has been admitted as a solicitor in HK since 1960 is best known as the co-founder of the law firm of Woo, Kwan, Lee & Lo and has served as non-executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Development for decades in addition to chairman and managing director of Kailey Enterprises and director of Tai Shing Development (see article). Seaward’s sons in law include banker Henry Wat Wai-kin (former general manager of BCCI’s HK branch), former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang and Anthony Chow Wing-kin, former president of the Law Society of HK whose wife Susan Woo Mo-fong (胡慕芳) has served as deputy managing director of Hutchison Whampoa.
SHK Properties board in the late 1970s. Seared left to right:M.W. Kwan (關文偉), Kwok Tak Seng (郭得勝), Fung King-hey (馮景禧),Lee Shau-kee (李兆基);standing left to right:Walter Kwok (郭炳湘), P.S Woo (胡寶星),Ho Wing-sun(何永新),Young Chi-wan (楊志雲), Seaward Woo (胡兆熾), Charles Lee (李業廣), Robert Kwan (關超然). (Biography of Lee Shau-kee)
Kailey Enterprises was privatized by the Woo family in 1990 and the next year, the firm re-developed its site at 16 Stanley Street in Central into the 24-story Kailey Tower. Aside from the Helene properties mentioned above, the group also owns other residential, industrial and commercial properties in HK and the mainland and diversified into other businesses such as restaurants, spas and art gallery. Today, the Kailey Group which is managed by the third generation continues to act as the distributor of products of Helene Curtis, which was acquired by Unilever in 1996.
Source (other than those cited above):
Lui In-tso (呂賢藻) and Family
Dr. Victor Lui (third from the left) receiving a souvenir from the Lions club and Cantonese Association in Atlanta in 2006 before returning to HK (Epoch Times)
Lui In-tso was a major figure in the dyestuff business in HK as he was the manager of the HK branch of National Aniline & Chemical Co (南星颜料), a major American manufacturer of dyes founded in 1917 which is the predecessor of AlliedSignal. National Aniline entered the Chinese market shortly after its founding and quickly established themselves as a player in the clothing dyeing business and worthy competitor to German firms such as Bayer which dominated the market at the time. Lui was manager of National Aniline’s HK branch even before the War (Jurors List, 1941) and continued to serve in that position after the War when the branch was operating out of the top floor of the Tai Ping Building at 16 Queen’s Road Central (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949)
In the 1950s, Lui was listed as the operator of Sainning Company, an importer of dyestuff and piece goods which first operated out of 61 Jervois Street (HK Chinese Business Yearbook, 1954) before moving to the 5th floor of the Tai Ping Building in Central. (HK $ Directory, 1963)
Lui’s younger brother Lui Yin-sun (呂賢新) was a staff member of National Aniline (Business Directory, 1949) and a director of the Shatin Heights Hotel (Xianggang Shiguang, 1970). In 1984, he was elected vice chairman of the Jardines Lookout Resident Association, which was headed by the king of electric fans, Yung Yau of Shell Electric Manufacturing (see article).
Lui In-tso’s son Dr. Victor K.S. Lui (呂景成) received his B.S. in 1967 and M.D.C.M. in 1971 from McGill University in Canada and was a pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia from 1975 until 2006 when he returned to HK to take of his elderly mother. He established the Lui In Tso Fellowship in Medicine at his alma mater in 2018 in memory of his father. Like his uncle, Victor served as vice chairman of the JLRA and resides in the family residence at 9 Creasy Road in Jardine’s Lookout, which was originally built in 1950.
Source(other than those cited above):
Shiu-Hin Wong (黃少軒) and Family
Mr. & Mrs. K.Y. Wong (third and second from left) and Wong Kwan-yin (first from left) of Mr. & Mrs. S.H. Wong Foundation at the opening ceremony of an elderly home donated by the Foundation in the village of Wan Fou in Guangdong province in 2006.
Little info is available about the life and career of Wong Shiu-hin and his name is mostly associated with the Mr. & Mrs. S.H. Wong Foundation (黃少軒江文璣基金), which was incorporated in 1998 and named after him and his wife Kong Man-kei (江文璣). In 1954, he was listed as the manager of Sang Hing Company at 25 Queen’s Road Central which was an importer of aniline dyes so he was in the same business as Lui In-tso. (HK Chinese Business Yearbook, 1954) He was also a director of Po Yuen Enterprises which was chaired by Seaward Woo. (CMA Members Directory, 1965)
S.H. Wong from a banquet (Courtesy of family friend Chan Ho-ming)
Over the years, the Mr. & Mrs. S.H. Wong Foundation has supported many charitable causes ranging from St. James Settlement (where they donated the Mr. & Mrs. S.H. Wong Elderly Adventure-based Training Centre) and Caritas to HKU and HK Philharmonic to building schools in rural areas in China. The directors of the Foundation include Wong Kwan-yin (黃坤燕) and Wong Kai-yuen (黃啟源, 1946-), who made the headlines when his car got into an accident on Stubbs Road in 2013. Kai-yuen and his brother Wong Kai-wing (黃啓榮) were listed as liquidators of the family firm Windward Enterprises (友華有限公司, incorporated in 1961) when it was dissolved in 2016. Windward was operating out of the 22nd floor of Winway Building (developed in 1963 and renovated in 1998) at 50 Wellington Street in Central, which was likely developed by the firm in partnership with Sunny Enterprises (to be covered). Wong Kai-wing was also listed as liquidators of Po Yuen Enterprises in 2011 alongside Paul Woo Po-shan (胡寶山), the younger son of Seaward Woo, his father’s business partner in the firm.
Left: Dr. K.K. Wong in 2018 (Openschool); Right: Lily Court (OneDay)
Dr. Kai-Kit Wong (黃啟杰), who was managing director of Windward and likely the older brother of Kai-yuen and Kai-wing, graduated from HKU in 1959 and received his PhD from MIT in 1963. He taught in the US until 1979 when he returned to HK to join the faculty of HK Polytechnic and where he served as head of the civil engineering department. In 1987, he left academia to enter the business world and became a property developer. In 1995, he established Hanlun Habitats (興倫之家) which became a leading operator of serviced apartments in Hong Kong with four buildings in the Mid-Levels – Lily I & II, Peach Blossom and Orchid. This was followed by Hanlun Information (興倫信息) in 1998 which is a provider of eLearning content in China and HK and its subsidiary Hanlun Artificial Intelligence in 2016, which is involved in development of AI applications to help Tai Chi learners improve their poses.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 21st August 2020.
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