Mr David Lee Wai-hung
Honorary University Fellow (2020)
David Lee is the fourth generation of his family to steward the famous Lee Kum Kee sauce business, which was established by Mr Lee Kum-sheung in 1888. Lee Kum Kee has now been diversified to include Chinese herbal health products, herb plantations and trading, property investment, and venture capital for start-ups through its Health Products Group. Over the past four decades, Mr Lee has, in various senior capacities, guided his family business to new heights. Now a world-renowned global enterprise that has stood the test of time, Lee Kum Kee has a plan to ensure its business thrives not merely for another 130 years but for 1,000 years, and beyond. But Mr Lee is not only concerned about his family business. He is equally fervent about Hong Kong, the place he calls home.
Mr Lee was born in Hong Kong and educated in North America. Having spent his teenage years in a military school, he was inspired to be a disciplined team-player and motivated to accept challenges and responsibility. Upon graduation from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 1982 with a degree in Business Administration, majoring in Marketing, he joined his family enterprise and started up the USA operation of the Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group. In the following years, he has headed up various units within the group including human resources, corporate governance, marketing and business development, as well as group finance.
Now stretching into its fifth generation, Lee Kum Kee has become an instructive case study for ultra-rich Asian families to deal with succession in order to avoid the oft-recited Chinese adage that "wealth does not go beyond the third generation". According to Mr Lee, if family members work together and value harmony, the business will thrive naturally. Likewise, he urges Hong Kong people, especially Generation Y and Millennials, to work together and value harmony for a better Hong Kong.
Striving to make Hong Kong a better place, Mr Lee, in his capacity as Chairman of the Lee Kum Kee Family Foundation from 2013 to 2018, guided the Group to give back to the community. Sensing the need to raise the spirits of Hong Kong people and bring positive energy into their lives, he has made “promoting happy family relationships” the core mission of the Foundation. A number of pivotal initiatives have been launched to enhance awareness of the importance of a happy and healthy multi-generational family. One of the projects he is most proud of is the creation of the “Loving Family” website, where the community can have access to professional advice on thorny but common family issues.
Mr Lee was deeply touched by the lyrics of the winning entry of the Loving Family Song Composition Competition, which was launched in 2016 by the Foundation. The song urges family members to stay together, no matter what. A family does not have to be perfect, it just needs to be united. In Mr Lee’s view, our city is the same. Hong Kong may not be a perfect place, but there are so many good things which we can, and should, cherish.
There is a Chinese saying that runs “Once you can manage your family well, you can pursue a higher goal – put your country in order”. As a positive and proactive person, Mr Lee is committed to doing more for Hong Kong. Apart from promoting family healthiness and happy multi-generational family relationships, he also devotes a lot of time and energy to nurturing the young as he knows they are the future of Hong Kong, our country, and our world. As a mentor to university students, an advisory committee member of different associations, and a conference speaker, he enthusiastically helps young people understand the past and prepares them for the future, building up their confidence and esteem, and most importantly, teaching them to be realistic and grateful.
One of the core messages that Mr Lee frequently shares with his mentees and staff members is to “do better than yesterday and be a nicer person than yesterday”. It is a simple but powerful piece of life advice. Mr Lee has adhered to these values over the past few decades, and it may be one of the keys to his success as a businessman.
Mr Lee always keeps the core value of Lee Kum Kee in his mind ─ Si Li Ji Ren or “considering others’ interests.” He strongly believes this is the key to the sustainability and prosperity of his family enterprise. Focusing on one’s own interests may bring temporal benefits, but it is only through sharing, collaboration and the consideration of others’ interests that we can achieve long-term well-being.
Mr Lee hopes that members of Generation Y and Millennials take this advice on board. If they take these values to heart, then they will become very constructive members of our society, and Hong Kong will surely be able to scale new heights.
Mr Lee is a highly respected entrepreneur and philanthropist on the Mainland, and he was named an Honorary Citizen of Jiangmen, China, in 2008. In Hong Kong, Mr Lee plays an advisory role to several universities, offering his professional expertise in marketing and management related disciplines, and he also offers his personal insights on the whole-person development of university students. In addition to his roles in Hong Kong, he also sits on the Board of Dean’s Advisors for the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Mr Lee has a long association with Hong Kong Baptist University. In 2014, he was named a Chapter Honouree of the HKBU Chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honour society, in recognition of his contributions to the commercial sector and society at large. He also provided wise counsel to the School of Business as a member of its Advisory Committee from 2010 to 2016.
The Chinese saying mentioned earlier has yet to be brought to its fullest fruition ─ once you have put your country in order, you can possibly bring peace to the whole world. While this is too tall an order for any one person, Mr Lee’s role as a business tycoon will surely help bring his family’s famous sauces to new destinations and tables, making meals more delicious, and filling the world with more happy faces.