Cultural hub chief Pescod 'told to go'

Top News | 30 Sep 2020

Sophie Hui

Duncan Pescod, chief executive of the multibillion-dollar West Kowloon cultural hub, has tendered his resignation nine months before his second three-year contract ends.

It is understood that Pescod - who became head of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority on August 3, 2015 - had not intended to resign early but was told that the government would like him to leave.

"This is not the way I want to leave," sources quoted Pescod as saying.

Pescod, a 33-year civil servant before being named head of the WKCDA, is the third CEO to leave the controversy-wracked cultural hub prematurely.

Pescod, 61, will leave his post on November 28, the authority's board said yesterday.

But it did not reveal the reason for Pescod's resignation and no successor has been named.

The authority said it will recruit a new chief by an open and thorough search globally. It will seek secondment from the government as an interim arrangement before a successor is appointed.

The authority's first head, Graham Sheffield, quit just five months into the job in January 2011, citing health reasons, while the second chief, Michael Lynch, left in August 2015 as he wanted to spend more time with his ill wife.

The chairman of the authority's board, Henry Tang Ying-yen, said the departure of Pescod is "a great loss."

Tang said under Pescod's strong leadership, the cultural district gradually moved from the construction phase to the operational phase.

"During his tenure, the smooth commissioning of different arts and culture and construction projects, as well as Duncan's determination to surmount numerous challenges, have all laid a solid foundation for the district's future development in the long term," Tang said.

"The departure of Duncan is a great loss to WKCDA," he said. "On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to thank him for his dedication to the authority and extend my gratitude for his outstanding accomplishments."

Tang said the board and the management of the authority will continue to drive the West Kowloon project forward with the aim of developing a world-class arts and cultural hub for the city.

Pescod joined the authority as chief operating officer in October 2014 and became the authority's third CEO in August 2015.

Pescod attended the authority's 92nd board meeting yesterday, and updated the board on the progress of the M+ project, saying the statutory inspections of the museum have been completed.

The formal issuance of the occupation permit for the museum is expected to take several more weeks after some outstanding issues are resolved.

It is expected that the final fit-out works of the museum's public spaces will be done next month before staff can move in.

Pescod joined the civil service in 1981. He was posted to Brussels as a special representative for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs to the European communities from 2006 to 2008.

He was permanent secretary for commerce and economic development from 2008 to 2010. From 2010 to 2014, Pescod was the permanent secretary for transport and housing and the director of housing.

The arts and culture hub is expected to incur a deficit of some HK$3.9 billion over the next three years.

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