The Ho family of Tsuen Wan and Caltex in the New Territories and Southern China  

York Lo: The Ho family of Tsuen Wan and Caltex in New Territories and Southern China

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Left: Ad for Yiu Kee Hong in the 1960s; Right: Ho Chuen-yiu and son with Caltex executives – managing director Jack Wolf, PR manager Chow Sang-wah, kerosene department head Yew Man-kit and Wah Kiu Yat Po manager Shum Choy-sang in front of Yiu Kee Hong during its charity sale to support the Wah Kiu Yat Po scholarships  (WKYP, 1964-3-7)

Ho Chuen-yiu, the chairman of the Kai Tak Amusement Park (see Ching Chun-kau) and his family had played a significant role in the post-War development of the New Territories, not only through their community involvement and philanthropy but also through their highly successful partnership with the American oil giant Caltex (with its oil depot in their native Tsuen Wan) over the past seven decades.   

Ho Chuen-yiu (何傳耀,1901-1970)

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Left: Ho Chuen-yiu (HK Album, 1967); Right: Caltex oil depot in Tsuen Wan (Land Use Survey, 1966)

A native of Ham Tin (鹹田) village in Tsuen Wan, Ho Chuen-yiu was a graduate of Wah Yan College where he learned English and thanks to his English knowledge, he attained employment with the comprador office of the American oil giant Texaco sometime before the War. Texaco (Texas Company, 德士古) was formed in 1901 and initially entered the China market through the Japanese trading house of Mitsui and the British trading firm of Reiss Massey (see article) before setting up its own branches in Shanghai and HK in 1913, selling its “Scale” brand of kerosene in southern China. The firm’s presence in China grew in the 1920s, going from only 5% of all American oil sold in China in 1921 to 56% in 1935, rivaling Standard Oil. In 1929, Texas Company China Ltd (became Caltex (China) Ltd in 1950 and Caltex (Asia) Ltd in 1955) was formed to coordinate the firm’s activities in China with Shanghai as head office and branches in the coastal cities of HK, Canton, Swatow, Dalian and Amoy. The next year, Texaco acquired a 520,000 sq ft plot in the Tsuen Wan waterfront to build a massive oil depot (Texas Co Buys Land at Hongkong to Provide Oil Storage” China Monthly Review), which commenced operation in 1936-37 and the road next to the depot was named Texaco Road as a result. China Light & Power was one of its first major clients in the New Territories. The firm began to market under the Caltex brand after its merger with the Standard Oil Co of California in 1936 although the firm’s Chinese name remained Texaco until 1985.    

After the War, Ho Chuen-yiu started his own business and his Yiu Kee Hong (耀記行) was appointed the main agent for Caltex products in New Territories (including Lantau) in 1948. He also opened a general store by the name of Kung Ping Emporium (公平百貨) at 1 Market Street in Tsuen Wan. By then he was a community leader in Tsuen Wan, serving on the board of the Tsuen Wan Trade Association (formed in 1939) and Tsuen Wan Rural Committee (formed in 1948), both of which were chaired by his brother in law Ip Tak-fan and was an executive committee member of the Heung Yee Kuk.

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Article about the repeated extortion threats received by Ho Chuen-yiu after the kidnapping attempt on him (right) and his son (left) in 1950 (WKYP, 1950-10-15)

The Caltex agency was an extremely lucrative one and attracted the attention of criminals. On September 1, 1950, Ho Chuen-yiu made headlines when a robber by the name of Lee Wai abducted him and his eldest son Ho Tsz-ping from their residence in Ham Tin village. While they were being hijacked to Kowloon to make bank withdrawals, Ho and his son managed to escape in Kwai Chung when their car was stopped at a police checkpoint and the ensuing crossfire ended with the deaths of two police officers and Lee Wai. Within the next month, Ho received two extortion letters from other criminals demanding payment of HK$205,000 which he ignored and over the next couple of years, he raised his profile rather than retreating, becoming the chairman of the Tsuen Wan Rural Committee (1954-60) and eventually as a leader of the pro-development faction became the 12th and 14th chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk. During his tenure as chairman of the Kuk, he successfully influenced the government’s New Territories land policy (e.g. not charging premiums on land conversion) which benefited the indigenous landowners and fostered the industrial and urban development of the New Territories and helped to build new schools in Yuen Long, Tai Po and the Southern district. He was appointed to the New Territories Liquor Licensing Board and Subsidized School Council in addition to serving as supervisor for the Tsuen Wan Public School and Tai Uk Wai School, co-founder and vice chairman of the Yan Chai Hospital and director of Pok Oi Hospital. For his community services, Ho Chuen-yiu was awarded the Coronation Medal in 1952 and became the second individual in the New Territories to be appointed Justice of the Peace in 1956 (first person being Tang Pak-kau 鄧伯裘 of Yuen Long in 1947)  

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Left: Caltex gas station in Tung Lo Wan Tsuen in Tai Wai (Land Use Survey, 1964); Right: Yiu Kee Hong’s storefront in Tsuen Wan in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-3-6)

On the business front, Yiu Kee Hong prospered in the 1950s and 1960s as kerosene was popular for lighting and cooking in the rural areas without access to gas and electricity and the development of New Territories (especially in its home base of Tsuen Wan and Kwai Chung which became the first industrial towns) also drove the demand for fuel. In 1959, Yiu Kee Hong opened its first Caltex gas station at 8-mile Castle Peak Road and the firm also had kerosene stations in Chung On Street in Tsuen Wan, Shek Lei Resettlement Estate in Kwai Chung and Tai Wo Hau. In 1963, Yiu Kee Hong built its own building at 296 Sha Tsui Road in Tsuen Wan, which was opened by the wife of Lloyd Kemp, the Caltex taipan in HK at the time. By 1965, Caltex Asia under the leadership of Harvard Business School graduate Jack Wolf with the support of strategic partners like Yiu Kee Hong had 25 gas stations, 6 kerosene stations and 2 marine stations in HK and rolled out its LP gas business in partnership with Hang Lung the same year (see article on M.C. Oung regarding similar effort by Mobil)  

With his profits from Yiu Kee Hong, Ho Chuen-yiu invested in other ventures aside from Kai Tak Amusement Park which was covered earlier. This include the property development firm Wang Wah Investment Co (宏華置業有限公司, incorporated in 1963 and dissolved in 2012) which developed Wang Wah Building at 63 Texaco Road and Chuen Yiu & Co Ltd (傳耀有限公司), which was incorporated in 1961 and dissolved in 2005. He was also chairman of the New Territories United Pearl Company (香港新界聯合養珠公司), a pearl cultivation venture whose investors included his fellow directors of Heung Yee Kuk – Lee Chung-chong (李仲莊), Ng Din-ping (吳殿平), Ching Chun-kau, Chan Yat-san (陳日新), Ng Chung-chi (吳松熾), Cheung Yan-lung (張人龍) and Lee Cheung (李昌). He also was a director of China Dyeing Works, the dyeing mill in Tsuen Wan founded by Cha Chi-ming in 1949.  

Ho Chuen-yiu and his wife Ip Yan-hay (葉恩希) have two sons – Ho Tsz-ping and Ho Tsz-leung (何子良). In May 1970, he died at the age of 69 at the St Teresa’s Hospital in Kowloon and was succeeded by his eldest son Ho Tsz-ping in business and community leadership.

Ho Tsz-ping (何子平, 1923-1988)

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Left: Ho Tsz-ping at his office at Yiu Kee Hong in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-3-1); Right top picture: Ho Tsz-ping with guests at the opening of the Yiu Kee Hong building in 1963; Right bottom picture: Ho Tsz-ping (left) and Ho Chuen-yiu (right) with the wife of Lloyd Kemp, Caltex’s HK taipan (middle) at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Yiu Kee Hong building in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-2-3)

Ho Tsz-ping had assisted his father at Yiu Kee Hong since its inception and the same month Ho Chuen-yiu passed away, Yiu Kee Hong (HK) Ltd was incorporated with Tsz-ping serving as its managing director. He was also managing director of other businesses such as Wang Wah Investment and Kai Tak Entertainment. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Caltex continued to grow in HK and by 1985, it had gas stations (10 of which in the New Territories by 1990), 12 kerosene stations, 2 marine stations, 11 barges, 4 housing estate LPG distribution system, 500 government and industrial clients and was doing HK$1.5 billion in business per year. (TKP, 1985-1-24). In 1984, Caltex relocated its oil depot from Tsuen Wan to Tsing Yi and the original depot site in Tsuen Wan was re-developed into Riviera Gardens in partnership with New World Development, Galbreath Ltd and Friel & Associates (the latter two were involved in the development of Mei Foo Sun Chuen for Mobil Oil also).  

Like his father, Ho Tsz-ping was very active in the community affairs of Tsuen Wan and served as vice chairman of the Tsuen Wan Rural Committee, chairman of the Tsuen Wan Trade Association and supervisor of the Tsuen Wan Public School. In the last role, he led to the effort in the construction of the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College, which opened in 1977. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by the colonial government in 1980 and was appointed to the Tsuen Wan District Board when it was formed in 1982. He died in 1988 at the age of 65.

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Left: Ho Tsz-ping speaking at the Ho Chuen Yiu School; Right: obituary of Ho Tsz-ping in 1988 (WKYP, 1988-12-17)

The Third Generation

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Article about the wedding of John Ho in 1971 (WKYP, 1971-5-4)

Ho Tsz-ping has five sons and five daughters. The eldest son John Ho (何約翰) is a graduate of Pui Ching Middle School and the University of London and qualified as a solicitor in HK in 1972. He was a partner of Deacons, founded the law firm of John Ho & Tsui in 1983 and had served as non-executive director of HK listed companies such as Wah Ha Realty (2004-2017, see article on Chung brothers) and Wong’s Kong King (1990-2017). The fourth son Ho Wing-hong (何永康) also practiced law while third son Ho Shiu-hong (紹康) is a dentist in the UK.

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David Ho delivering a speech at the 13th athletic meet of the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College in 1991 (WKYP, 1991-11-9)

Although Yiu Kee Hong (HK) Ltd as a firm was dissolved in 2003, the Ho family’s partnership with Caltex expanded under the leadership of Tsz-ping’s second son David Ho (何大偉, 1952-) and fifth son Patrick Ho (何俊康, 1956-), both graduates of the University of Newcastle in the UK with degrees in mineral engineering and chemical engineering. As China opened in the late 1970s, the brothers saw massive opportunity and established Langton Investment (華深投資, renamed Caltex Langton in 1990) in 1982 to distribute Caltex products in southern China, starting with the first gas station in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in partnership with the local government.

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Signing of cooperation agreement between Caltex and Shenzhen Petroleum to develop oil depot in Shenzhen through Skillworld Investments in 1984 (WKYP, 1984-5-21)

In 1983, Caltex and the Ho brothers formed Skillworld Investments (德深投資) in partnership with Guangdong Shenzhen Petroleum Co. to construct oil depot in Shekou in Shenzhen. This enabled Caltex-Langton to expand its distribution network to  many cities in the Pearl River Delta – Guangzhou, Shantou, Zhaoxing, Panyu, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Enping, Zhongshan, Foshan, Weizhou and Huadu over time in partnership with local authorities. In 1997, Caltex Langton was renamed Caltex South China Investments Ltd (加德士華南投資, CSCIL) which by 2003 was doing HK$374 million in revenues and HK$32.3 million in profits with 45 gas stations (integrated with retail convenience stores) in Macau (CSCIL owned 60% of Caltex Macau which was formed in 1991), Guangdong and Fujian provinces.  

In 2005, CITIC Resources announced its plans to acquire 50.5% of CSCIL for HK$351 million with Caltex and the Ho brothers (through BVI-registered Star Concepts Holdings Ltd) retaining 36.8% and 12.6% of CSCIL after the completion of the deal. The deal collapsed in June 2006 after it was blocked by the Beijing government and CSCIL remains a partnership between Caltex (now Chevron) and the Ho family to this day.

Outside of business, David Ho served as supervisor of Tsuen Wan Public School from 1990 to 2015 while Patrick Ho had served on the board of the Yan Chai Hospital and was a member of the Guangdong and Shenzhen CPPCC.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://resources.citic/eng/ir/circulars/c050304.pdf

https://gwulo.com/node/18579

http://mall.cnki.net/magazine/article/ZHHW199707034.htm

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114980478265875447

This article was first posted on 1st July 2019.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Ching Chun-kau (程振球) – Real Estate, Amusement Park and Resort Pioneer
  2. Caltex-Texaco-Chevron in Hong Kong
  3. Caltex Oil Terminal – Tsuen Wan – recollections of an Assistant Terminal Superintendent, 1973 to 1978
  4. Fred Westphal – the American Oil Taipan from New Orleans who helped to power Hong Kong
  5. CLP A Century of Light – how power was brought to Kowloon and the New Territories

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