Two sons of Walter Kwok, a Hong Kong developer once kidnapped for ransom and later ousted as chairman following a public family squabble, inherited a $3.1 billion stake in Sun Hung Kai Properties.
Geoffrey and Jonathan Kwok are the beneficiaries of a trust with 211 million shares, according to regulatory filings in Hong Kong that don’t disclose the exact amounts each heir received. Representatives of Sun Hung Kai, Hong Kong’s biggest real estate developer with a market value of about $41 billion, didn’t reply to a request for comment.
Walter Kwok, also known by his Chinese name Ping-sheung, died in October at age 68 after suffering a heart attack two months earlier. His own father died of a heart attack in 1990, and he took over the company along with his brothers Thomas and Raymond.
He was kidnapped in 1997 by a Hong Kong gang leader known as “Big Spender,” who also had held the son of billionaire Li Ka-shing for ransom. Kwok was ousted as chairman in 2008 after a public spat with two brothers who thought he had been suffering from mental illness, which he denied, later suing them for libel. The legal dispute that wound up before the High Court was amicably settled in 2014.
Geoffrey Kwok studied for a master’s degree at Stanford University after a stint working at Sun Hung Kai, while Jonathan studied in New York, according to a 2012 South China Post story. The shares they inherited are held through British Virgin Islands-based holding companies Asporto Ltd. and Fortress Gold Ltd., the regulatory filings show.
Their father was the oldest of three sons who inherited the fortune of Kwok Tak-seng, a grocery wholesaler from China’s Guangdong province who immigrated to Hong Kong after World War II. Kwok Tak-seng joined Fung King-hey and Lee Shau Kee to found Sun Hung Kai Properties in 1963.
The company, which sold shares in a 1972 initial public offering, became one of the world’s largest real estate developers by market value. Sun Hung Kai has since expanded to other areas including logistics and telecommunications.