HONG KONG: The fate of Hong Kong's iconic roast goose restaurant Yung Kee was sealed a few minutes past 7pm at Hong Kong’s court of Final Appeal on Wednesday (Dec 16).
Ronald Kam, one of the sons of the restaurant's founder, made a last ditch effort to Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma to rescind the winding up order for the restaurant. However, this was rejected by Chief Justice Ma, citing a lack of jurisdiction and the late stage of the case.
Following founder Kam Shui Fai’s death in 2004, the restaurant was left in the hands of Kinsen and Ronald, his two sons. But Kinsen soon complained to the court that he was blocked from running the business despite holding 45 per cent of the shares, with Ronald holding 55 per cent.
Days before the court ruling, however, he died, leading his family to accuse his younger brother Ronald of being behind his death. The incident has since caused the contentious dispute to erupt in bitterness.
Reports say the late Kinsen’s family, who applied for the court liquidation order, demanded HK$1.3 billion or US$168 million, for their 45 per cent stake. But Ronald, who currently runs Yung Kee, was only willing to pay HK$1.1 billion in cash and almost HK$100 million worth of assets.
In November, the Court of Final Appeal ordered its holding company Yung Kee Holdings Ltd to liquidate if no decision has been reached by Dec 9.
Yvonne Kam, daughter of Ronald Kam, says her family did whatever they could to save “grandpa’s restaurant”, and she was deeply saddened by the outcome.
A liquidator will take over the holding company at midnight to find buyers for its assets, including the restaurant and the building it occupies in Hong Kong’s Central district.
Yet this does not mean that that Yung Kee will shut its doors immediately. Lawyers say the liquidation process will likely take months if not years, and as a subsidiary of the holding company, the restaurant can keep running in the meantime.
However, if restaurant and the building are eventually sold off separately, the famed establishment might have to find a new home. One of Yung Kee’s most defining features, the only charcoal-fired oven on Hong Kong island, would be lost, as the government no longer issues permits for such equipment.
Yung Kee was founded in 1942 by former street food vendor Kam Shui Fai. It was named by Fortune Magazine one of the world’s top 15 restaurants in 1968. Kinsen’s sons have started their own restaurants, Kam’s Roast Goose, which won a Michelin star last year.