Sun Hung Kai: A Governance Crisis in a Family Firm
The case study documents an incident involving one of the world’s largest family-owned, publicly traded firms. The case is set in Hong Kong, where Chinese, Western, and local cultures intermingle, affecting the way corruption is viewed and dealt with. It involves issues related to conflicts within a prominent family leading to a high-profile scandal, describing tensions between the desire to maintain family control over the firm and the need to maintain proper governance and transparency for financial markets, respond to social pressure from a society that deals aggressively with corruption, and deal with a criminal inquiry that could lead to years in prison. This was all happening while complex political issues simmered in the background.
The case provides an integrated framework to address organizational crises (using an example caused by corruption); discusses the governance of family firms; and offers options for handling a crisis once it has occurred.
The primary objective is to introduce participants to a framework for analyzing potential crises. In the SHK case, the crisis has already occurred. However, the analytical framework is designed to be a proactive tool in strategic risk management that prevents the occurrence of situations such as the one discussed in the case.
The case introduces Root Cause Analysis (RCA) as a central tool for conducting this analysis. A secondary objective is to introduce the fraud (or governance) triangle and, more generally, to discuss the governance of family firms. Lastly, the case reviews the tactical aspects of crisis management and the relation with stakeholders during a crisis.