Francis Hung of Loyal Garment and Jonny Hung of Casella Far East
York Lo: Francis Hung of Loyal Garment and Jonny Hung of Casella Far East
Hong Kong in the 1980s was full of opportunities with the opening of China and the booming local consumer market and two brothers achieved tremendous success separately in two different fields during the decade – Francis Hung in garments through his Loyal Garment group which had its own building in Cheung Sha Wan and over 10000 employees at its peak and Jonny Hung in liquors through his Casella Far East, one of the largest liquor distributors in HK with popular cognac brands Bisquit and Beehive and was acquired by Pernod Ricard. Sadly, Jonny passed away the same year he sold his firm while Francis’ garment empire crumbled in the 2000s.
Francis Hung(熊順祿) and Loyal Garments(駿業製衣廠)
The former Loyal Centre (now Manley Centre)
Francis Hung and Jonny Hung are the second and third sons of Hung Yuk-tung (熊旭東, 1909-1990), a native of Huangpo in Hubei province who like many came to HK in 1949 when the Communists took over in the mainland and raised a family of nine which included four sons and five daughters. Their older brother Hung Shun-cho (熊順祖) was the chairman of CCE Trading while the fourth brother Hung Shun-ching (熊順禎, 1950-1991) worked for Francis.(WKYP, 1990-11-3) Both Francis and his older brother Shun-cho went to Tak Ming Middle School in HK started by the family of Chan Shu-woon. (see article on Union Metal Works and Great South Fishing)Me Shun-chung (米信松, 1925-1987), the husband of his eldest sister Lilian, was also in the garment business and was the founder of Luen Ford Sportswear Factory (聯富製衣廠, incorporated in 1973) which is currently managed by his second son Edward Mee Foo-ling (米福寧).
Francis Hung incorporated Loyal Garments Manufacturing Ltd in 1978. In 1983, he complained to the press about the garment quotas in HK which was bid up to ridiculous levels, making it difficult for smaller manufacturers to fill orders. The firm, which dissolved in 1993, was succeeded by Loyal Garment Ltd which was incorporated in 1991 and Loyal Garment Factory Ltd which was incorporated in 1993.Alsopart of the group were Fitto Textile (駿圖紡織, incorporated in 1987, dissolved in 2005) and Loyaltex China Ltd (駿華製衣, incorporated in 1985, dissolved in 2006).
By the early 1990s, the Loyal group had factories and subsidiaries throughout China (including factories for Loyaltex in Dongguan and Meizhou and a joint venture in Jiangsu) and Southeast Asia (including Loyal-Bidex in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and subsidiaries in Thailand and Singapore) and over 10,000 employees. The group also had its own building – Loyal Centre (駿業中心) at 828 Cheung Sha Wan Road and Francis Hung was also the owner of the racehorse “Lord of Warriors” (駿仕) trained by Tony Cruz.
By the mid-2000s, the Loyal group went into financial troubles and most of the Loyal companies were ordered to be winded down with the HK Labor Department filing a bankruptcy petition against Francis Hung. The group’s sourcing affiliate, Loyaltex Apparel Ltd, incorporated in 1993 and operated out of 5th floor of Loyal Centre in HK (HK Major Companies Directory) and its affiliate Loyaltex Apparel USA in New York with co-founder Bob Shamis as president on the other hand continued to operate and by 2008 was doing over US$300 million in sales with 330 employees between its HK and NYC offices, working with 70 suppliers in China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Loyaltex Apparel was acquired in 2011 by Li & Fung who was interested in its clients such as Aeropostaleand Alfred Dunner.
Jonny Hung(熊順祺) and Casella Far East (祺昌洋行)
Jonny Hung (first from the right) with Bisquit spokesperson Willie Chan (second from right) and executives from Pernod Ricard at the launch reception for Bisquit Prestige in January 1988. (WKYP, 1988-1-18)
Jonny Hung was an executive in the wine & spirits division of the British trading house Gilman & Coin the 1970s (Hongkong $ Directory, 1974) before starting Casella Far East in 1982. The first character of the firm’s Chinese name is after the last character of his own Chinese name and the entire name sounded the same as the Chinese name of the Anglo-American trading house of Shewan Tomes (and its predecessor Russell & Co).One of the first brands represented by Casella was Beehive VSOP (蜂巢大三星), brandy brand made by French firm Bardinet and the firm working with ad agency Ted Bates organized a display competition.
In November 1983, Casella became the HK sole agent for Balvenie (寶雲尼) whisky by Scottish whisky maker William Grant & Sons. It was also the local distributor of two other whisky brands made by Grant & Sons – Grant’s and Glenfiddich. (WKYP, 1983-11-22)
In January 1984, Casella won a major coup when it was appointed by French giant Pernod Ricard (保樂力加) as the HK, Macau and mainland China sole agent for Bisquit cognac (百事吉) and Dubonnet (杜本內), replacing the established firms of Gande Price and Rondon Far East. As a result of the new agency, Casella split its sales team into two groups – one focusing on Bisquit and Dubonnet and another handling Beehive and Grant’s whiskey. To promote Bisquit during Chinese New Year, each bottle was on sale for HK$105 each. (TKP, 1984-1-12) In December 1984, Casella managed to convince the Royal HK Jockey Club to use Bisquit cognac for its 100th anniversary banquet at the Ocean City restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui, serving over 4000 guests including Governor Edward Youde in over 300 tables. (WKYP, 1984-12-8) Thanks to excellent customer service to hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs and savvy multimedia marketing campaigns, Casella quickly emerged as one of the top liquor distributors in HK.
In December 1986, Casella hosted the Far East business conference for Bisquit at the Furama, hosting distributors from markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. (WKYP, 1986-12-21)
Jonny Hung (second from right) with his colleague (to his right) and representatives from Cathay Pacific and the first shipment of Bisquit Prestige cognac in 1987 (WKYP, 1987-12-28)
In 1988, Casella launched Bisquit Prestige (皇牌百事吉) in the HK market with an aggressive marketing campaign. The same year, the firm added Wild Turkey Whiskey from the US and Cruse from France.
In 1988 and 1989, Casella was the lead sponsor of the Hong Kong “King of Big Two” competitions under the name of “Bisquit Cup” to capitalize on the popularity of the Chinese card game “Big Two” with Morningstar Travel and Tse Sui Lun Jewelry as co-sponsors.The winner of the 1989 event was the actress Kara Wai Ying-hung representing Golden Harvest Panasia and the event raised $222330 for the Community Chest. (WKYP, 1989-10-19)
Left: Jonny Hung with winners of the King of Big Two contest in 1989. Left to right: Jonny Hung, Alwin Lam of Manulife, Leung Wai-ling from Morningstar, 1st runner up Lee Kin-sang, winner Kara Wai, co-sponsor Tse Sui-lun, Willie Chan, 2nd runner up Tse Sun-keung (WKYP, 1989-12-1); Right: screenshot from the Bisquit Prestige commercial featuring Willie Chan in 1990 (Youtube)
The brand ambassador for Bisquit Prestige was Willie Chan Chi-keung, the top talent manager at the time. In 1990, Casella hired Grey Advertising to launch a new ad campaign for Bisquit featuring three other celebrities – film director Tony Ching Siu-tung (程小東), composer Michael Lai Siu-tin (黎小田) and entertainment executive Philip Chan (WKYP, 1990-8-24)
In January 1991, Pernod Ricard acquired Casella and asa result of the acquisition, Jonny Hung was promoted to chairman while Alain Chamla from Pernod’s Singapore subsidiary became executive director of the firm. (WKYP, 1991-1-1)
In March 1991, Casella received complaints from a women’s group stating that some of its commercials objectified women. (WKYP, 1991-3-14)The same month, Casella participated in an international wine contest at the Furama Hotel and its Swanson Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay from Napa Valley won the best chardonnay while its Lindemans wine from Australia and Clos Du Val wine from California also won several awards. (WKYP, 1991-3-18)
Sadly, Jonny Hung died in Boston in July 1991 only months after the sale at the age of 48. In 2002, Casella Far East was renamed Pernod Ricard HK Ltd and then a year later, Pernod Ricard Asia Duty Free Ltd.
Beehive VSOP commercial in 1985:
Willie Chan’s commercial for Bisquit Prestige in 1989:
Michael Lai and Philip Chan’s commercial for Bisquit Prestige in 1990:
This article was first posted on 8th February 2021.
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