K.K. Lam (林君傑) – the Rise and Fall of a Watch Band Merchant turned Speculator
York Lo: K.K. Lam (林君傑) – the Rise and Fall of a Watch Band Merchant turned Speculator
Left: K.K. Lam (Federation of HK Watch Trade & Industries); Right: opening of Ying Kit Stock Co in October 1972 (WKYP, 1972-10-30)
Earlier in the group we have covered three HK industrialists whose high-profile disappearances captured the headlines in their respective decade – Edmond Ip of W. Ming Weaving in 1971, Alex Au of Conic Group in 1984 and So Kin-keung of Kin Son Electronic in 1995. In January 2002, over 250 clients of the 30 years old brokerage firm Ying Kit Stock Company (英傑證券) took to the police and securities regulators when K.K. Lam, the sole proprietor of the firm, went missing along with over HK$110 million of client’s money. Outside of the securities business, Lam was a well-known player in the watch band business since the 1960s and an active real estate investor and developer in the 1970s and 1980s.
K.K. Lam, whose English name was spelled two different ways – Lam Kuen-kit and Lam Kwan-kit, was born in the early 1930s. His name first appeared in the HK Chiu Chow Directory (香港潮僑通鑑) in 1970, which confirmed his Chiuchow ancestry. In the 1960s, he opened his Lam Kee Leather Watch Band Co (林記表帶廠) to deal in leather watch bands (although the Chinese name include the character for factory which suggest that the firm was also a manufacturer) on Mercer Street in Sheung Wan and by 1967, he was significant enough a player in the local watch industry to be elected to the board of the Federation of HK Watch Trade and Industries. He sat on the board for nearly two decades until 1986 and is still listed as an honorary director of the association today on its website.
While Lam made his initial fortune in watch bands, he moved into real estate and the stock market as those markets took off in the early 1970s. In August 1972, Lam and his friends Chan Yu-hung (陳汝雄) and Chu King-yan (朱景炘) formed Cosy Estates Ltd (高士置業) with each partner owning a third. The next month (September), Cosy acquired the site of 171-172 Gloucester Road in Wanchai for $1.1 million and within five months sold it for $4.5 million, netting a quick $3 million profits. The site was later developed into Aubin House in 1979.
In October 1972, Lam established the stock brokerage Ying Kit Stock Co with Ng Sai-ying (吳世英, 1926-1983), a fellow watch industry veteran and board member of the Federation of HK Watch Industry & Trade. The firm, which was named after its two cofounders, was initially based out of the 3rd floor of 11 Queen Victoria Street and was a member of the recently formed Kam Ngan Stock Exchange. Outside of business, Ng Sai-ying was active in community affairs, especially in the Wanchai district and elected to the Wanchai District Council in 1982 but died the next year of a heart attack. (WKYP, 1972-10-30) After that, Lam became the sole proprietor of Ying Kit.
Left: article about the death of Ying Kit Stock Co co-founder and district councilor Ng Sai-ying in 1983 (KSDN, 1983-6-30); Right: Lam’s Building in Kau U Fong (Uwants)
In 1975, Lam formed Lam Wan Estates Ltd (臨運地產) and Lam’s Holdings with his wife Chong Sau-hing (莊秀卿) which bought and sold many retail properties in the Central and Western district on Wellington Street and Hollywood Road with holding periods ranging from five months to two years, each deal netting over a hundred thousand dollars and aggregate profits of over $1 million.
With his profits from property speculation, Lam moved into property development and developed Lam’s Building (林氏大廈) at 6-10 Kau U Fong (九如坊) in 1975, with himself keeping at least three units of the top floor and lived there for many years. This was followed by the 17 story Hoi On Building (海安大廈) at 94-98 Sai Wan Ho Street in Sai Wan Ho which was completed in 1981.
In the 1980s, Lam went to Lantau Island where he bought land and developed many houses in villages such as Mui Wo, Pui O and Tung Chung. Through these deals he befriended many Lantau residents and Ying Kit became known in the brokerage industry for its Lantau clientele.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Lam maintained a relatively low profile and operated his brokerage out of Sheung Wan. In October 2001, the SFC noticed irregularities in Ying Kit’s FRR reports and clients were depositing money directly into Lam’s personal account instead of the company account. When Lam disappeared in January 2002, the SFC immediately restricted the trading activities of Ying Kit and then obtained court order to appoint administrator to freeze Ying Kit and Lam’s assets. About $19 million, which was less than one fifth the amount of the initial missing money was initially recovered. Rumors in the brokerage community circulated that Lam lost a lot of money trading PCCW and lost even more speculating on index futures in order to recuperate his losses, leaving him with no choice but to flee. In total, the Stock Exchange received a total of 280 claims for compensation amounting to $237 million, far exceeding the $8 million per brokerage compensation limit under the Unified Exchange Compensation Scheme. By March 2003, shares were returned to 107 clients and the number of valid claims was reduced to 173 for $186 million, of which $15 million were paid from the compensation fund to 158 claimants as of September 2004. To date, K.K. Lam has yet to resurface.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 20th March 2020.
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