Businessman Kenny Wee is suing media giant Next Digital for allegedly failing to uphold its side of the bargain in the terminated sale of Next Magazine.
Last Friday, Next Digital issued a notice to shareholders saying that the sale of the Taiwan and Hong Kong editions of the title had been terminated because it had yet to receive funds Wee promised to pay.
Through Gossip Daily Limited, Wee is suing Next Media Magazines Limited, Ideal Vegas Limited, and Next Digital Limited for unilateral breach of contract over the sale, and is seeking compensation. In a personal capacity, Wee is also taking legal action against Next Digital Limited, Apple Daily Limited and top Next Digital executive Cheung Kim-hung for libel. He is seeking compensation and the retraction of a report by Apple Daily published online last December 28.
In July last year, Wee sold off his free newspaper Metro Daily in anticipation of the Next Magazine acquisition. The purchase, however, was delayed several times. Last month, Next Digital said Wee had paid the promised deposits but another notice was issued this month stating that the funds had not been received. The official termination came last Friday.
On Monday, Metro Daily published a report containing a six-point statement by Wee. In it, Wee said it was “regretful” that Next Digital terminated the sale, adding that there had been payment problems since the first transfer last July. He claimed that the seller’s lawyers did not wish to receive the payment on behalf of the seller.
Wee also claimed there were several other instances of payment transfer issues, but his side had paid almost HK$100 million to the seller via different means over the past six months: “There are receipts!”
He said that, on January 2, the transaction for Next Magazine‘s Hong Kong edition was completed in the presence of both sides’ lawyers, on the basis of phone confirmations after an order was made to a bank to transfer the funds. Next Digital issued a notice the next day saying the sale of the Hong Kong edition sale had been completed and the buyer has paid the relevant funds.
“However, as the seller changed management on February 1, a notice was published on February 2, unreasonably claiming that the transaction was not completed. The buying side was at a loss as to what to do,” the statement said. “The buying side spent seven months of effort and almost HK$100 million – now justice can only be sought via legal means.”
Mark Simon, Next Digital’s top executive, said Next had received substantial payments in 2017 from the buyer multiple times, but he did not understand what other methods Wee had used to transfer the funds: “I have no idea what ‘different means’ means. But payments were received in the same manner all our monies are usually received – cheque or wire.”
“Did the money show up?” Simon asked. “No idea [where] he is going with this, but if he is in funds give us a call.”
In December last year, Wee also sued online media outlet Citizen News for defamation over an article relating to his purchase of tabloid publication Next Magazine.