Peter Leung (梁振邦): Contractor, Developer and Philanthropist
York Lo: Peter Leung (梁振邦): Contractor, Developer and Philanthropist
Left: Peter Leung giving a talk about the HK construction industry at a Rotary Club of Kowloon East luncheon in 1977 (KSEN, 1977-8-31); Right: Picture of the Peter Building in Central at the time of its completion in 1967 (WKYP, 1967-7-17)
Peter Building (振邦大廈) at 58-62 Queen’s Road Central is a well-known building in the heart of the Central business district named after its developer Peter Leung Chun-pong, whose eponymous Peter Leung Construction (振邦建築) was one of the leading building contractors in the 1960s and 1970s which completed many projects for leading developers (such as Cheung Kong) and nonprofit sector clients (such as the Catholic Church) and was known for its reliability. Donning his trademark bowtie and dark rim glasses, Peter Leung was one of the highest profile businessmen in town, offering his views to the press on many different topics ranging from stock market regulation to teachers’ compensation to his focus area of real estate and construction but has retreated from the limelight since the 1980s.
The Rise of a Construction Industry Star and Philanthropist in the 1960s
According to Leung’s memoir, his grandfather was in the rubber business in Malaya while his father Leung Chi-cheung (梁熾昌) worked for the Peninsula Hotel before the War. During the Japanese occupation, his parents and three siblings died from starvation. A devout Catholic, Peter had worked as a missionary and teacher in Cheung Chau before his business career. After completing his studies in the UK, Leung returned to HK where he started in the import export trade. In 1957, he founded Peter Leung Construction to capitalize on the building boom which started after the changes in building code in 1955 which allowed taller buildings and in January of the same year, he married Lorna Auyeung Yuk-chun (歐陽玉珍), the daughter of postal official Auyeung Fun who was working as a nurse for the Chan Yuk Hospital. (WKYP, 1957-1-21) One of his first clients was the Catholic Church which awarded him the contract to renovate the St Teresa Church in Kowloon and its driveway.
With his excellent networking skills and disciplined approach to construction, Peter Leung quickly made a name for himself in the construction industry. In 1965, Peter Leung Construction celebrated its 8th anniversary at two locations – Golden Crown restaurant in Kowloon and Kin Kwok restaurant on HK side. That year, Peter Leung Construction was ordered millions of dollars of construction equipment from the UK for the various projects it was involved in.
By the mid-1960s, the Leungs had already made a name in philanthropy while building their business. In 1964, Lorna Leung donated $180,000 to St. Margaret’s Church and in 1965, Peter Leung Construction built a playground for free for the Catholic Church sponsored Bishop Ford Memorial School in Kowloon City (WKYP, 1965-2-15; 1965-4-1) Aside from contributing to Catholic charities, Peter Leung was also director of the Po Leung Kuk, Lok Sin Tong and Pok Oi Hospital, vice chairman of the Yaumatei chapter of the Boy Scouts and honorary chairman of the kaifong welfare associations in Central, Hunghom and North Point.
Peter Leung and his wife (third and second from the right) with fellow developer Li Shiu-chung (see article), fellow Tung Wah director Samson Sun (third from left), Yu Look-yau, Chan Kam-toi and representatives from the Catholic Church including deputy bishop Chan Pak-leung at the 8th anniversary celebration for Peter Leung Construction in 1965(WKYP, 1965-7-12)
Mr and Mrs Peter Leung (right) and Mr and Mrs Samson Sun (left) at the 10th anniversary celebration at the top floor of the newly erected Peter Building in 1967 (WKYP, 1967-7-20)
In 1966, Peter Leung incorporated Peter Leung Mortgage & Investment Co (振邦按揭建築有限公司) to engage in property development. In July 1967 during the riots, Peter Leung Construction celebrated its tenth anniversary and the completion of Peter Building which was completed within 220 days, a crowning achievement for a firm whose logo was a crown. In March 1969, watch merchant Chan Peng-fei (陳鵬飛,father of Cantopop star Danny Chan) and Lee Chi-ho (李賜豪) of Po Chai Pills acquired the ground floor of the Peter Building for $2 million which was heralded in the press as a sign of recovery in the HK real estate market at the time. Chan’s Eldorado Watch opened in the space in October of that year and has been there ever since. (KSDN, 1969-3-30; 1969-10-7) Another long time tenant is the Kiangsu-Chekiang Residents Association which occupied the 11th floor of the building.
Peter Leung at the signing of the contract for the construction of new wing for St Paul’s Convent School. Right to left: Peter Leung, Peter’s friend Samson Sun who happened to be head of the school’s parents association and fundraising committee, headmistress, architect K.A. Kho, parents association representative Clifford Wong, fellow architect and later developer of Fairview Park and Hong Lok Yuen. (KSDN, 1968-9-11)
In September 1968, Peter Leung Construction won the contract from the Catholic Church-sponsored St. Paul’s Convent School in Causeway Bay to build a 2-story new wing.
Around the same time, Peter Leung saw the potential of developing a resort in Hong Kong modeled after Disneyland in the US and other destinations in Japan and across the globe. He struck up a deal with New Territories leader Chan Yat-san and reorganized Chan’s Sun Island Hotel Co (incorporated in 1961) into Pearl Island Investment (龍珠島發展) in September 1968 with shipping tycoon T.B. Hwang as chairman and himself as vice chairman and chief supervisor to develop Chan’s Pipa Island (琵琶洲) in Tuen Mun into a resort named Pearl Island. When speaking to the press in March 1969, Leung announced plans to build a 80 room hotel with water sports and swimming facilities and a 60000 sq ft outdoor restaurant plus a cable car system that could transport guests from the entrance of the island to the resort area. By then $7 million had been invested in the project and trees were being removed. (WKYP, 1969-3-14)
In September 1969, Peter Leung made the headlines when he and his wife received several dozen anonymous threatening phone calls telling them to back out of the Pearl Island project. Instead of backing down, Leung reported the threats to the police and the press, pounding his fist and condemning the perpetrators. However, when the Hotel Pearl Island finally opened in February 1970, Peter Leung’s name was not in the announcement ad. He also missed the opening ceremony for a family trip to Japan and upon his return posted an ad in the papers claiming no legal responsibilities related to Pearl Island Investment, effectively distancing himself from the venture. In March, Leung received an extortion letter mailed to his residence in Yau Yat Chuen demanding $10000 in $100 bills to be delivered to a shop on Canton Road or else his family would be harmed. Police waited for the extortionists at the drop off time and location, but no one showed up. (TKP, 1970-3-2) In his autobiography, Leung listed Pearl Island as one of his failed projects and another one being Discovery Bay.
Mr. & Mrs. Peter Leung on the cover of Kung Sheung Evening News in September 1969 discussing the harassment calls they received. (KSEN, 1969-9-10)
Peter Leung in the 1970s and Beyond
Peter Leung did not slow down after the “Pearl Island” incident. Unlike many of his peers such as Cheong Lee and Wan Hin covered earlier, Peter Leung Construction was not big on government contracts as the competition was intense, the margins were thin, and the risks were high. In fact, in 1970 Peter Leung suggested that his peers should stop bidding for government tenders. (Nanyang Siang Pao, 1970-11-6) In 1977, Leung gave a talk about the HK construction industry at a Rotary luncheon where he discussed his success formula which allowed him to distinguish himself in the highly risky and competitive industry of over 1000 players – don’t go after competitive tenders and don’t take on projects that exceed a firm’s financial and technical resources.
In October 1970, Peter Leung won the $2 million contract to construct the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals David Trench Home for Elderly at 29 Nam Long Shan Road in Aberdeen. The project designed by architect Pak Kwong (co-founder of Far East Stock Exchange) comprised of three circular buildings with 340 beds on a 60000 sq ft site and phase I of the project involved blasting a hill which took 60 days and the construction of the buildings took another 70 days. (KSDN, 1970-10-31)
At the completion of the Trench project in March 1971, Peter Leung Construction won two contracts of similar scale in Aberdeen ($6 million, 14-story industrial buildings on 20000 sq ft site, completion within 130 days with $2000 per day bonus if ahead of schedule) – the Reliance Manufactory Building (信誠工業大廈) at 24 Wong Chuk Hang Road for Lai Kok-chi and the Evergreen Industrial Mansion (松柏工業大廈) at 12 Yip Fat Street for Yeung Yiu-chung, the king of industrial buildings (see article; according to Leung, Pak Kwong from the Tung Wah project was Yeung’s preferred architect).
Left: Peter Leung with his new clients reviewing the plan for the Trench home for the elderly in Aberdeen in March 1971. Right to left: Peter Leung, Lai Kok-chi, architect Pak Kwong, Yeung Yiu-chung and his wife. (WKYP, 1971-3-11); Right: Peter Leung (left) shaking hands with landlord Hui Chung-sing at the signing of the contract to construct a 24-story building. Robert Y.C. Lee of Hong Nin Bank was between the two and architect David Lee was on the right (WKYP, 1971-11-14)
In June 1971, Koo Yik-chun of Johnson Tailor, Johnson Electric and Hwa Fuh Garments (see article) won the bid for a 19200 sq ft site on Argyle Street for HK$4.76 million, significantly higher than the starting bid at HK$2 million. Koo immediately hired Peter Leung Construction as the contractor for the residential building on the site. Designed by the architectural design firm of Chau, Lee & Shea, the building was allegedly the first residential building in HK to install soundproof double layer aluminum windows and included 20000 sq ft of garden a swimming pool and a 20000 sq ft basement garage. (KSDN, 1971-7-1)
In November 1971, Peter Leung Construction won the contract to build the 24-story new building on Connaught Road Central for the family of HKU lecturer Hui Chung-sing (許仲繩). Designed by Chau, Lee & Shea and with steel bars provided by Shiu Wing, the building had three elevators and projected completion time within ten months. The same year, Peter Leung also built a fire station in Kowloon, Kader Industrial Building (開達工業大廈) at 22 Kai Cheung Street in Kowloon Bay for plastic and toy magnate H.C. Ting and projects for Kai Ming Investments and Chang Ming-thien. (WKYP, 1971-11-14
By the mid-1970s, Peter Leung was doing multiple projects for developers such as Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Holdings and the Ma family’s Tai Sang Land. In October 1974, Peter Leung Construction completed the Sing Wah Building for Tai Sang 99 days ahead of schedule. As a result, Tai Sang and the architect Chan Sai-keung (陳世強) paid the firm a bonus of $4000 per day plus giving them the contract to construct a 14-story warehouse building in Sai Wan. The same month, the firm also finished its fifth building for Cheung Kong – a 22-story office building on Waterloo Road designed by architect Liu Hok-yan (廖學人). Another major client was H.C. Ting of Kader Industrial whom he had built many buildings for including a 18-story industrial building designed by architect Peter Sze Piao (史標) in Ah Kung Ngam. In addition, Peter Leung developed the Peter Leung Industrial Building (振邦工業大廈) at 103 Wai Yip Street in Kwun Tong and Chen Yip Industrial Building (振業工廠大廈) at 5 Lai Yip Street that year. (WKYP, 1974-10-29)
Peter Leung signing a contract with Tai Sang Development for multiple projects in 1976. Right to left: Kevin Ma Ching-ngok(馬清岳), Ma Kam-woon (馬錦煥), Ma Kam-chan (馬錦燦), architect Wong Kam-sheung (黃錦湘), Peter Leung, William Ma Ching-wai (馬淸偉). The Chinese sign in the background reads “patience”. (KSEN, 1976-2-22)
In 1976, Tai Sang signed additional contracts with Peter Leung Construction, including one for a godown in Sai Wan, a 23-story office building in Queen’s Road West, a project in Kwai Chung and a residential project designed by family member Kevin Ma Ching-ngok on Broadcast Drive in Kowloon.
Peter Leung and his wife (back row center) with Lee Chung-keung of Cheung Kong (second from left, front row), Walter Kwok of SHKP (second from right front row) and architect Auyeung Yu-kwong at the contract signing for Pokfulam Gardens in 1978. (KSDN, 1978-9-19)
In 1978, Peter Leung Construction won the HK$100 million contract to build Pokfulam Gardens, a residential project jointly developed by Cheung Kong and SHK Properties which encompassed 200,000 sq ft and six 29-story residential blocks (total 1120 units from 500-1300 sq ft each), gardens and swimming pools. The contract included $30000 per day of penalty or reward based on completion within 13 months and Peter Leung finished the job within 11 months resulting in significant bonus.
In 1980, Peter Leung Construction completed Peninsula Centre (半島中心) in Tsim Sha Tsui East for Cheung Kong within ten months, including spending only 50 days to finish the 95000 sq ft two level basement which broke the record for basement completion in HK. Unfortunately, plumbing works by the government slowed down the project, reducing the firm’s bonus from $7 million to $3 million. Cheung Kong followed up by awarding the contract to re-develop the former site of Green Island Cement in Hunghom. (WKYP, 1981-2-23)
By the late 1980s, Peter Leung had left the management of his construction firm to the next generation (he has two sons, his eldest son David was an estate agent and published a free newspaper before his death in 1991) and became very lowkey, even going 45 minutes early to his usual lunch spot at the Yung Kee restaurant near his offices to avoid the crowds and rarely going to horse races even though he owned many horses at one time such as “Crown Jubilee” and preferred a quiet time at home with a friend. (WKYP, 1988-12-23) In 2000, he published a memoir entitled “All’s Well That Ends Well” (驚濤駭浪的人生), in which he mentioned he was one of the dozen HK businessmen who had invested in the Suntec City project in Singapore.
As a firm, both Peter Leung Construction and Peter Leung Mortgage & Investment were dissolved in 1996.
This article was first posted on 1st June 2020.
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