Food & Drink

Is Yung Kee's goose cooked?

Founder of Yung Kee roast goose restaurant Kam Shui Fai (centre in grey), with sons (from left) Kwan Ki, Ronald and Kinsen, in happier times.
Founder of Yung Kee roast goose restaurant Kam Shui Fai (centre in grey), with sons (from left) Kwan Ki, Ronald and Kinsen, in happier times. PHOTO: APPLE DAILY

The families of the sons of the restaurant's founder have been embroiled in a bitter dispute. Now, a court has ordered the eatery to wind up operations

HONG KONG • Yung Kee Restaurant, a Hong Kong institution renowned for its roast goose, might reach the end of the road after more than 70 years.

Overturning a 2012 ruling last Wednesday, the Hong Kong court of final appeal ordered the restaurant's parent company to wind up in 28 days, unless the families of the late founder Kam Shui Fai's two sons, Kinsen and Ronald, could agree on a buyout, said newspapers including Apple Daily.

The ruling was a victory for the late eldest son Kinsen's family, who have since set up a new restaurant, Kam's Roast Goose.

The dispute started in 2007 over brothers Kinsen and Ronald's shares in Yung Kee Holdings.

Kinsen then filed a petition to wind up the company in 2010. But he died in 2012 at age 66, days before the high court rejected his application on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction in the case.

Yung Kee Holdings is registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Last Wednesday, Kinsen's widow, Madam Leung Sui Kwan, said she was pleased with the new ruling, as justice had been done, reported Ming Pao Daily News.

His son, Hardy, 42, said he was happy, but had complicated feelings about the ruling.

He said: "I always wanted to resolve the matter."

He added that he had tried to talk to "the other side", his uncle Ronald, 67, but he refused to talk to him.

The bitter dispute between the two sons Kinsen and Ronald started after the third son Kwan Ki's death in 2007.

Originally, Kinsen and Ronald each had a 35 per cent stake in Yung Kee Holdings, but Kwan Ki left his 10 per cent stake to Ronald.

In 2009, the matriarch, Madam Mak Siu Chun, gave her 10 per cent stake to Kinsen for her two sons' shares to match up, but the move made Ronald unhappy with his mother and soured his relationship with his brother, said Apple Daily.

Their sister Kelly eventually gave her 10 per cent stake to Ronald, such that he now has a 55 per cent stake.

The court's order has been suspended for 28 days, for the two sides to reach an agreement about Ronald acquiring Kinsen's 45 per cent stake.

If they need more time, they can apply for an extension.

Apple Daily said Kinsen's family had in the last few years offered to sell their stake to Ronald for about HK$900 million, but Ronald never made any counter-offer.

But Ronald's son, Carrel, gave a different version of events.

At a press conference at Yung Kee Restaurant attended by Madam Mak, 85, last Wednesday, Carrel said his side had been proactive about talking to his uncle Kinsen's family, reported Apple Daily.

He said he could not rule out the possibility that the other side prefers liquidating the company for higher profits.

"If they don't consider our grandfather's 73 years of effort and are determined to liquidate, there's nothing we can do."

Madam Mak, who previously sided with Kinsen, was asked about her apparent change of heart.

"My eldest son isn't around any more. Who will I follow if I don't follow him?" she answered, referring to Ronald.

Yung Kee, founded in 1942, lost its Michelin star in 2011. Kam's Roast Goose, set up by Hardy, won a star months after its opening last year.

At the press conference at Yung Kee, Ronald said he wants to keep his father's business alive, reported Apple Daily. He added that what he treasures the most now is that "Mum has come back to me".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 15, 2015, with the headline 'Is Yung Kee's goose cooked?'. Print Edition | Subscribe