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Local Printing Press Limited

Wayne Leung is not your average printer. A banker by profession, a sailor by heart and a chevalier of the arts, the easy-going managing director switched careers to take up the reins of Local Printing Press Limited and Ye Olde Printerie three years ago.

The former Vice President for Swiss Bank Corporation's Private Banking Division, and Vice President for Chase Manhattan Bank's Corporate Banking Division, worked as a banker for 17 years. A staunch supporter of the arts, he is Chairman of the Hong Kong Arts Festival Society's Development Committee, and holds the title of Knight of the Crown Order, of Belgium; Knight of the National Order of Merit, as well as Knight of the Order of Arts & Literature, of France; and Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy for his work to the arts. And whenever he wants to get away from it all, he finds solace in his second home -- a 30-metre Versilcraft Super Challenger boat -- christened "My Toy."

While its managing director is not your typical printer, Local Printing Press is not your average printing company either. Paintings and oak woodwork decorate the walls of the main office, which could easily be mistaken for a swank law firm's office in Central rather than a print shop in North Point.

"We've tried to create something unique here," Mr Leung explained. "We hope the environment will make our visitors and also our staff feel comfortable and confident about the company."

Local Printing Press Limited was founded in 1927 by the late Lee Yat-ngok, Mr Leung's grandfather. A politician by profession and engineer by trade, Mr Lee had had his fill of corruption blighting China at the time, and so decided to give up everything and start afresh in Hong Kong, Mr Leung explained.

He built his printing factory at 13 Duddell Street, Central, and handed it down to his son. For much of its 76-year history, Local Printing Press administered its business out of a tiny two-room office in Baskerville House in Central. Given that the company constructed the whole building, not to mention owning other properties around Hong Kong, it seemed ironic that it never splashed out on a grander office. But frugality has made the company what it is today.

"Thanks to the prudent management of my parents we have been a zero-debt company for the past eight decades," he said. "We own all our machines and properties and we don't lease anything."

Diversification into real estate provided Mr Lee with the capital to acquire Ye Olde Printerie. Founded in 1923, the printery was -- and still is -- renowned for printing elaborate stationery and invitations. Even today, its handcrafted products are favoured by many because of the workmanship that goes into each item produced.

With his rich engineering, printing and political background, Mr Lee founded the Hong Kong Printers Association and served as its chairman for over 12 years.

Life was rosy in Hong Kong for Mr Lee, and his company managed to secure a number of large printing contracts. These included printing the Jockey Club's lottery tickets, bus tickets and even the silk menus for the Peninsula Hotel's restaurants.

"Since 1949 we have been the official printers of the Jockey Club. We also print cheques for banks, and we are a securities printer," Mr Leung said.

In 1961, the company was renamed Local Property and Printing Company Limited and was listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange the same year. In 1988, however, the printing section of the group was privatised to become the present Local Printing Press Limited and Ye Olde Printerie.

New challenges
Having been a banker for 17 years, Mr Leung said he had his apprehensions about taking over the family business from his father, who passed away in 1995.

"I never entered the family business before, because my parents said that as long as I was happy in my job, I didn't have to come back to take over the business," he said.

His initial doubts about his ability to run a printing empire soon disappeared as he discovered that the business and marketing side of the job were basically what he had studied in school for his MBA.

Encouragement from friends also convinced him to give it a try.

"A good friend of mine, John Chan [then managing director Kowloon Motor Bus Company] and I were having lunch on day, and I was telling him about my situation, and he said, 'Wayne, I am running a bus company, but do you think I know how to fix a bus?' I got the idea from him. It is the same rationale for my situation. Do I know how to fix a printing machine? Of course not. But you have to know the theory behind it, which is what I am learning now," he said.

While Local Printing Company has prospered following time-honoured printing traditions, Mr Leung said when he took over the business, the time was ripe to upgrade the company's operations.

Last year, the company moved its office -- the first time in its 76-year history -- to Cheong Lee Building, North Point, which houses its printing operations.

"About a year after coming into the business, I discovered that having operations on two sides of the island was not feasible," Mr Leung explained. "Clients generally want to have a look at your operations or to monitor certain aspects of production, so it made sense to consolidate our office and printing office under one roof."

He has also upgraded the office's production facilities and capabilities to offer a one-stop solution starting from the graphic design stage, to output, to printing and binding. This new, fully computerised operation has come a long way from the hand-crafted stationery that Ye Olde Printerie built its name upon.

But as Mr Leung says, "If you are going to continue with the business, you cannot look into history and say how glamorous we were doing all those fabulously elaborate, quality products. You have to be competitive by finding new technology to give you that edge."

The timing of the move and upgrading of operations might seem to have been slightly unlucky with the continuing decline of the economy over the past year, but Mr Leung said that the downturn, ironically, has brought some benefits. He has been able to attract talented designers to oversee the design process of the operation, and quality staff to take his operations to the next level.

With the capabilities to now offer clients complete design and printing solutions, Mr Leung says he is confident about the company continuing its long tradition as one of Hong Kong's most respected printers. He has no desire to become "the leading printer," as the industry is unique in that there is no one defined leader.

"If you look around, you'll find that everyone is a printer. You have people with one machine printing business cards or leaflets. You have factories like we do with 10-20 different machines doing what we do. You have factories that have moved to China with printing facilities covering two acres. They are all printers, but how do you differentiate between them?" he asks.

"One part of it is that competition is fierce, but by the same token it is not as horrible as one thinks, because it is so diversified. That's what so interesting about this business. It's going to be an exciting time ahead, and it is our know-how which makes this printing business prosper."

Company: The Local Printing Press Limited
Business: Printing
Established: 1927
Year joined HKGCC: 1946
Web site: Top

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