David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Former high flying owner Pan Sutong declared bankrupt in Hong Kong

The glory days of Akeed Mofeed and Gold-Fun seem far distant for the former billionaire after a High Court ruling.

Former mega-rich racehorse owner Pan Sutong was declared bankrupt at the High Court in Hong Kong on Friday after failing to repay an HK$8 billion (AUD $1.5bn) loan.

CITIC Bank Corporation Ltd Tianjin Branch, CITIC Bank International (China) Ltd Beijing Branch and China CITIC Bank International Ltd petitioned for bankruptcy against Pan and one of his companies, Silver Starlight Limited, for failing to pay back the debt by the due date.

The loan was paid to Silver Starlight Limited to facilitate the 2017 privatisation of Goldin Property Holdings Ltd: both companies are owned by Pan. A further HK$4 billion (AUD$740 million) loan from China CITIC Bank International Ltd was not part of the petition.

The founder of the investment conglomerate Goldin Group – whose HK$27 billion (AUD$5bn) net worth in 2015 saw Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index rank him as Asia’s fourth richest man – made an immediate splash on the Hong Kong racing scene a decade ago: his gold silks with red spots dominated the 2013 Classic Series as Gold-Fun won the Hong Kong Classic Mile and his high-profile purchase Akeed Mofeed triumphed in the Hong Kong Derby.   


Akeed Mofeed wins the 2013 Hong Kong Cup. (Photo by Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

Akeed Mofeed, bought for a reputed €2 million out of John Oxx’s stable in Ireland, went on to win the Group One Hong Kong Cup later that year under Douglas Whyte, while Gold-Fun progressed to become Hong Kong’s champion miler and placed second in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

That pair’s trainer Richard Gibson also sent out Pan’s Giant Treasure to win the Group One Stewards’ Cup at Sha Tin.

Pan expanded his reach into Australia and purchased a significant part of the the historic Lindsay Park from the Hayes family, renaming it Goldin Farms, where he stood Akeed Mofeed as a stallion. But the farm and his overall participation in racing have declined in the past three years: with many of Goldin’s best broodmares sold.

Akeed Mofeed had a promising start to his stud career and moved briefly to Swettenham Stud in Victoria but returned to South Australia and served just two mares last season. Pan has a handful of racehorses in Australia, trained at Flemington by Nick Ryan.

His last runner in Hong Kong was Gold Chest, eighth in a Class 3 at Happy Valley on February 9 this year. Yet he still has horses racing in Australia, for now, and the Ryan-trained Gold Spark, a son of Akeed Mofeed, was entered to race at Caulfield a day after the High Court gave its judgement.

Gold Spark wins at Caulfield. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Born in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, Pan – a Hong Kong resident – spent his youth in California. He moved to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s aged 21 and accrued his initial wealth trading and then manufacturing electronic products through the company he established, Matsunichi Digital Holdings Ltd.

In 2008, he shifted his primary business focus to property development as that sector boomed: his Goldin Group in 2016 completed construction of the massive Goldin Financial Global Centre in West Kowloon, built on land purchased in 2011 for HK$3.43 billion, and also invested heavily in its flagship Mainland China development, the ‘Tianjin Project’.

Pan became a prominent figure in world polo with his 890,000 sqm Goldin Metropolitan polo club in Tianjin playing host to numerous major tournaments. He and Goldin also invested in wineries in California and France.

But his business interests have encountered serious difficulties in the past three years: Political protests in Hong Kong and two years of Covid measures led to recession, which in turn exposed him as having overstretched during Hong Kong’s property boom years.

Pan’s business woes have been many – his estimated wealth according to Forbes Asia in February 2021 had plummeted to HK$1.8 billion (AUD$333m) – and there have been a series of court actions and appeals regarding his Goldin Group companies in Hong Kong, as well as much of the same in the Supreme Court of Bermuda, where Goldin is domiciled. But the loss of the landmark Goldin Financial Global Centre in July 2020 is a striking symbol of his slide into bankruptcy. 

Goldin Financial forfeited ownership of the massive 28-storey complex to creditors after defaulting on a HK$6.8 billion (AUD$1.3bn) debt, and in October 2020 the High Court ruled in favour of those creditors, who put the Goldin Financial business headquarters up for sale at an estimated price of HK$12 billion (AUD$2.2bn). The sale is ongoing.  

Christophe Soumillon aboard Gold-Fun at Sha Tin. (Photo by Getty Images)

The HK$8 billion loan at the centre of the latest High Court ruling was secured through Pan’s personal guarantee and a May 2017 share charge carried out by Silver Starlight Limited, as well as via his Goldin Properties (Tianjin) Co. Ltd taking out a mortgage later that year on two pieces of land that were part of the Tianjin project.

Silver Starlight Limited was given an accelerated deadline for repayment of December 10, 2019 but failed to deliver and did not make any repayments, except a portion of the interest in January 2020, before the final deadline on May 15 of that year.

The ruling by Judge Linda Chan in the Court of First Instance of the High Court came after Pan and Silver Starlight Limited disputed the debt, citing a verbal agreement that would have enabled capital raised from selling properties on the mortgaged lands to repay the debt. Also disputed was the court’s jurisdiction to make the winding up order. The judge found against those disputations.

Silver Starlight Limited was ruled insolvent. Pan was deemed unable to pay his debts and declared bankrupt. The case of a bankruptcy petition filed by Bank of China Limited Shenzhen Branch against Pan will be heard on August 2.  




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