The Ho brothers and Jan Sin Mee and Standard/Shui Hing

York Lo: The Ho brothers and Jan Sin Mee and Standard/Shui Hing

From the 1960s to 1980s, the Ho brothers – William Ho Sau-pang (何壽彭), Shau-Hong Ho (何壽康,1923-1996) and Stanley Ho Sau-nan (何壽南) were major players in the HK garment industry as William and Shau-hong were the founders of the Jan Sin Mee Group, one of the largest garment manufacturers in HK before its collapse in 1987 while Stanley founded Standard Knitting (acquired by Oriental Pacific in 1967) and Shui Hing Knitting (merged with Polly Peck in 1986). Native of Shunde in Guangdong province, their father Ho Lai-shek (何礪) was the head of the export department of The HK Canton Export Co Ltd (WKYP, 1960-2-27).  

Jan Sin Mee Garments Manufacturing (真善美製衣)

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Shots of Jan Sin Mee plant in San Po Kong in the 1960s with Connie Chan starring as a factory worker (YouTube)

Although Jan Sin Mee was incorporated in 1965, it was likely founded in the 1950s as Ho Shau-Hong was already listed as its owner in his mother Madam Wong’s obituary in 1960 while his older brother William was listed as owner and manager Manning Garment Factory (萬寧製衣). By the late 1960s, Jan Sin Mee was a sizeable garment manufacturer in San Po Kong and was even featured in a movie starring the popular Connie Chan (later daughter in law of retail tycoon Jefferson Young, see article) 

Aside from the Ho brothers, another key figure at Jan Sin Mee was Tam Kwok-chi (譚國始, 1908-1982), a well-respected figure in the local theater circle who was the uncle of the Ho brothers and joined the firm as chairman in 1970. A graduate of Sun Yat Sen University in Canton, Tam who taught drama and puppetry at Canton before moving to HK where he taught at Grantham Teachers College and Chu Hai College and according to HKMDB was screenwriter in 2 Cantonese movies in the 1950s before entering the business realm by joining his nephew Stanley Ho as director of Standard Knitting. His wife Wong Wai-fan (譚黃蕙芬,1912-2004) was the younger sister of the mother of the Ho brothers and served as principal of Curie English School (chairman was Koxik Chow, former Education Officer and father of former Health Secretary York Chow). She was known for playing the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi in TV and theatrical productions while their son Paul Tam Mo-shing (譚務成) was a senior medical officer and their daughter Tam Mo-shuet (譚務雪) was the leading lady in the first TV drama in HK in 1963 (co-starring with Chung King-fai, the grand doyen of HK theatre) before moving to San Francisco where she has been an educator in linguistics. Outside of work, Tam had served as a director of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, vice president of the Rotary Club of HK East and honorary chairman of the Federation of HK Garment Manufacturers (WKYP, 1982-5-4) 

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Left: Jan Sin Mee executives signing IT contract with Dataprep in 1974 (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1974-8-31); Right: K.C. Tam, drama teacher and chairman of Jan Sin Mee. 

In 1972 during the height of the stock market bubble, Jan Sin Mee went public. In August 1972, Jan Sin Mee appointed Hutchison Boag as its exclusive agent in the Eastern European market. The firm also bought two parcels of land – one 14000 square feet and another 13000 square feet on Castle Peak Road to construct a factory building with 315000 square feet of space for Jan Sin Mee’s own use and external lease (WKYP, 1973-1-9) 

In September 1973, Director of Commerce Eric Peter Ho visited Jan Sin Mee during which Ho Shau-hong boasted about receiving overseas orders totaling over $50 million in the previous 15 days with projected revenue that year of HK$160 million. At the time the firm had 350 employees and 3500 workers and the factory space was fully air conditioned. (KSEN, 1973-9-28) 

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Ho Shau-Hong (HK Economic Journal, courtesy of Linda Pun)

In August 1975, Governor Maclehose visited Jan Sin Mee’s factory at 17 Luk Hop Street in San Po Kong where he was greeted by Tam and S.H. Ho. The 13 story building had 330,000 sq ft of factory space employing 6000 workers  (KSDN, 1975-8-20) For the six months from April to September 1975, Jan Sin Mee did sales of $125 million and profits of $3 million which was 38% and 25% higher than the same period in the prior year. (WKYP, 1976-1-28)

To stay ahead of the curve, Jan Sin Mee was not only one of the first garment manufacturers to computerize in Hong Kong (as shown by signing of contract with Dataprep in 1974) but also developed its own designs rather than solely focusing on contract manufacturing for foreign brands. 

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Governor Maclehose (center) visiting the Jan Sin Mee factory in 1975 (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1975-8-23)

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Visits of Lady Bryant, wife of the chairman of the HK Affairs committee of the British Parliament to the Jan Sin Mee factory. From left to right: Lady Bryant, 2 designers from Jan Sin Mee (Yip Cho-ling and Chow Yee-man), Social Secretary to the Governor, officer of the Department of Industry and Commerce (Kung Sheung Evening News, 1976-9-18) Designs by Florence Tse of Jan Sin Mee which won the HK Young Designers Competition in 1978 (New Nation, 17 February 1978, Page 10

In 1978, a fire broke out at the Jan Sin Mee factory during a Typhoon 8. (KSDN, 1978-07-28)

In the fiscal year ending March 1980, Jan Sin Mee sales grew by 45% to HK$528 million with profits of $22.6 mil which was 78% better than the previous year.  (KSEN, 1980-11-1) 

As US garment quotas for HK firms became more restrictive, Jan Sin Mee looked at other countries such as India as offshore production base. In 1981, Jan Sin Mee opened a knitwear factory in Maldives in cooperation with the local government which started with monthly production output of 15000 dozens and 800 workers. It also opened a branch office in Jakarta to target the Southeast Asian market and offices were opened in major Western markets such as the US, UK, West Germany and Holland. (KSEN, 1981-11-11) 

For fiscal year ending March 1981, Jan Sin Mee did record sales of HK$692 million, a 30% increase from the previous year. In 1982, Jan Sin Mee spent $5 million to acquire new equipment to improve product quality and production efficiency. 

In the late 1970s, Jan Sin Mee like its peers in the garment industry such as Lo’s Mee Kwong and Manhattan Garments was attracted to the real estate business and established Right Time Land Investment Ltd (運泰置業, incorporated in 1978, dissolved in 2000) and Right Time Construction Ltd (威泰建築, incorporated in 1979, dissolved in 2010).  Through Right Time, Jan Sin Mee was involved in residential developments in Stadium Road, Castle Peak Road, Boundary Street in Kowloon, Yik Yum Street in Happy Valley, Ping Shan in Yuen Long and Lucky Court in Macau. (TKP, 1981-11-13). As a result of the foray into real estate, Jan Sin Mee Garments was renamed Jan Sin Mee Holdings Ltd (真善美實業) in 1981. 

As the confidence crisis hit, Jan Sin Mee felt the stress in its property business where it has completed Far East Finance Centre and residential project on Castle Peak Road, still had land in TST East and Tai Tam Tuk on the books and was forced to abandone the Ping Shan development in Yuen Long (KSDN, 1982-10-29) 

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Left to right: William Ho Sau-pang, Roy W. Burgess and Ho Chee wing. 

In May 1982, K.C. Tam died at the age of 74 but the group continued to grow. 

In 1984, Jan Sin Mee invested HK$2 million to set up an IT department and established a joint venture in the US specialize in men’s clothing did sales of around US$10 million. (KSEN, 1984-11-29) In December, UK retail industry veteran Roy Burgess and Shau-hong’s son Ho Chee-wing, Oxford graduate and head of Jan Sin Mee’s UK business were added to the firm’s board of directors (WKYP, 1984-12-4)  

In January 1987, trading was suspended at Jan Sin Mee Holdings as the group faced financial crisis stemming from losses associated with property investments in Macau. At the time, the group’s liabilities totaled over HK$600 million while assets was HK$400 million – including HK$180 million worth of garment quotas. (TKP, 1987-4-17)  

The creditors enlisted Citicorp as financial advisor to help with the restructuring and simultaneously worked on disposing the real estate assets and the garment business. The bank received interests in the garment business from over 10 groups including the mainland Chinese group China Resources, Taiwanese groups and two local garment groups connected to the Ho family – Wing Tai (whose founder Cheng Yik-hung’s son Edward Cheng Wai-sun is married to Shau-hong’s daughter Fung-yee) and British group Polly Peck (which was connected to the younger Ho brother Stanley) (WKYP, 1987-4-10) In May, SHK Properties teamed up with Wing Tai to form Unimix which acquired the Jan Sin Mee building for HK$170 million (WKYP, 1987-5-7). In July 1987, a consortium led by Wing Tai and SHKP (each holding 33.5%), Wheelock and Eveline (each holding 15%) and Suez Asia (private equity arm of Banque Indosuez, holding 3%) acquired the HK garment business of Jan Sin Mee via Unimix (TKP, 1987-7-28) As a firm, Jan Sin Mee Holdings was delisted in August 1987 and dissolved in 2004. 

After the sale of Jan Sin Mee, Ho Shau-hong continued to operate Kin Nan (Textile) Ltd (建南紡織) until his death in 1996. He was survived by his wife Kwok Hau-ping (郭后平, she had served on the board of the Yan Chai Hospital), two sons and one daughter. His son Simon Ho Chi-kin (何志堅)was married to Daisy Ho (何超鳳), the daughter of Macau casino kingpin Stanley Ho.  

Stanley Ho (何壽南) and Standard Knitting (標準織造廠) and Shui Hing Polly Peck 

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Stanley Ho the garment tycoon (right) and Stanley Ho the casino king (left)

S.H. and William’s younger brother Stanley Ho Sau-nan (1931-2021)was also a major player in the garment and knitwear industry in his own right. He came to HK after middle school in 1950 and started in the industry in 1952 as a foreman at Kea Fung Knitting Factory (奇峰織造廠, incorporated in 1961 and dissolved in 1998) in Sham Shui Po, which was operated by Lee Fook san and primarily sold its products in Indonesia and HK. Stanley worked 15 hours day doing everything from production to delivery while taking English classes at night. By 1959 he was deputy manager of Kea Fung but wanting to strike out on his own, he pooled together HK$30000 in savings with HK$170,000 borrowed from friends and family and started Standard Knitting (according to him so named as the first syllable is the same as his English name). Thanks to his timeliness and customer centricity, Standard became a leading knitwear manufacturer within a few years but some of his shareholders were shaken by the riots in 1967 and opted to sell out. As a result, Standard was acquired by Oriental Pacific which was then controlled by the Hutchison group in November 1967 (see article). 

With his proceeds from the Standard sale, Stanley established Shui Hing Knitting Factory (瑞興織造廠) in 1968, which was named after Silvana To Shui-hing (杜瑞卿), his wife of ten years at that point. By 1978 the firm was growing rapidly, primarily exporting to the US bu also to Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan. In 1979, Shui Hing established Mikura Shirts Ltd (高田恤) to manufacture shirts of the same name and promoted the brand through sponsorship of races and outdoor advertising. 

By 1984-85, Shui Hing was doing HK$240 million in sales with $25 million in profits and employing over 1500. (WKYP, 1985-11-4)     

In 1985, the British group Polly Peck which was growing aggressively globally through acquisitions under the leadership of Turkish Cypriot financier Asil Nadir acquired 50% of Shui Hing and later further raised its stake to 90% while Stanley retained 10%. As a result, Shui Hing Knitting was renamed Shui Hing Polly Peck (瑞興寶麗碧) in 1987 and Barry Buttifant, the managing director of Sime Darby (see article on Harpers, China Engineers and Lee Yu Kee) was recruited to lead the firm. During this time, the firm built the 12 story Shui Hing Centre (瑞興中心) at 13 Sheung Yuet Road in Kowloon Bay as its head office in 1986. In 1987, Shui Hing Polly Peck did HK$800 million sales and was holding $60 million worth of garment quotas, with 40% of its exports going to the US and the rest going to European markets such as West Germany and France. (TKP, 1988-4-20) 

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Shui Hing Centre in Kowloon Bay when it still had the Shui Hing logo (OneDay) 

In 1988, Polly Peck Far East which controlled Shui Hing Polly Peck became a listed company through the acquisition of the listed shell of Rainbow Orient (formerly Dah Yuan Real Estate, see article on K.C. Wong). Meanwhile the parent company Polly Peck got even bigger as it acquired majority control of the Japanese electronics firm Sansui and the Del Monte canned fruit division of RJR Nabisco. Unfortunately, the Polly Peck empire unraveled in 1990 when its chairman Asil Nadir was charged with massive fraud. The Cheng family of Wing Tai came to the rescue once again and acquired Shui Hing Polly Peck in 1990 which became United Success International and later Wing Tai Properties.    

Outside of business, Stanley and Silvana Ho are well-known in social and philanthropic circles and the Po Leung Kuk Stanley Ho Sau-nan Primary School is named after him. Their son David C.H. Ho (何志), a graduate of Rensellaer Polytechnic who started Macy’s Candies Group, the largest chocolate producer in HK and their daughters include private equity manager Ming-Yee Ho (何明懿), the wife of Epicurean Group founder Sherman Tang (湯聖明, proprietor of The Peak Lookout and Jimmy’s Kitchen) and Samantha Ho Shuk-yee (何淑懿), a former fund manager with Invesco who currently serves as chief investment officer of her husband Arnold Ip (葉天賜)’s publicly-listed investment firm Altus Holdings.  

This article was first posted on 30th August 2019.

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