Another parked in Ocean Park hot seat

Editorial | Mary Ma 29 Apr 2021

Ocean Park will have a new chief executive from Saturday. What, a new CEO yet again? Yes, again.

Joe Wong Chi-cho will be the park's "n-th" chief executive in as many short years.

Incumbent Ysanne Chan Sein-yu will step aside to give way to Wong after having been in the position for less than a year. Chan will become managing director.

The change appears odd at first glance since it is common in the private sector to have either a chief executive or a managing director but rarely both together as each title usually refers to the top executive.

Nonetheless, the arrangement is tailored to suit the special circumstances at Ocean Park.

Chan's original term was extraordinary in the first place. It was expected to last for only one year until the end of June when she was promoted internally to succeed Matthias Li following his retirement as chief executive in July.

Now, tourism commissioner Wong is being seconded from the government to be Ocean Park's chief executive for an even shorter period of no longer than six months.

It's obvious that both Chan and Wong are not meant to be permanent by default.

After Li announced his retirement plan in 2019, a global hunt was launched to secure a replacement in time for Li's departure in mid-2020. Chan was promoted, but her single-year tenure caused some jaws to drop.

Clearly, the last global head-hunting exercise failed to land anyone suitable.

Chairman Lau Ming-wai's future at Ocean Park is also subject to renewal in two months. He remained silent each time he was asked if his term would be extended, which was understandable since it would be for the government, not him, to make the announcement.

The job description of the "six-month" chief executive is specific in that he will be responsible for dealing with the government. As private companies will be invited to formally express interest in participating in the new business model in six to nine months, knowledge of the private sector is essential.

Besides his government experience, does Wong possess the knowledge to kick-start Ocean Park's transformation?

An equally urgent task facing Lau is to find for the theme park someone who knows the new business model better than anyone else.

Instead of operating a theme park in the traditional sense, it will be a business model with greater similarity to that of a mall or designer outlet as the "new" Ocean Park will be divided into various subcontracted sections.

It would be ideal to recruit someone who has acquired such skills and knowledge, but this is easier said than done.

Hong Kong is not short of such talents in the private sector, but how many would be willing to give up their positions to join Ocean Park?

There are certainly others who are less successful, but I doubt the park would like to select one from among them.

If Lau stays on as chairman, this will be his next headache.

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