Kadoorie, Lawrence (CBE) 1899 - 1993

Baron Lawrence Kadoorie (1899–1993), businessman, was born Lawrence Kelly on the 2nd June 1899 in Upper Richmond Road, Hong Kong as the eldest of the three sons of Sir Elly Kadoorie (1867–1944) and Laura Samuel (d. 1919). The Kadoories, a Sephardi Jewish family, emigrated originally from Baghdad to Hong Kong in 1880. The family moved to England in 1910, but Sir Elly returned to Shanghai in 1911. Meanwhile, the youngest son having died in infancy, Lawrence and his brother Horace attended school at Ascham St Vincents, Eastbourne, and at Clifton College in Bristol. In 1914 they ventured to Banff, Canada, for a family reunion and when unable to return to England the boys continued on to Shanghai and its cathedral school.

After their mother died in 1919 the two brothers took on the responsibility of building up the Kadoorie name in Asia. While Horace in Shanghai ran the family home Marble Hall, Lawrence, after studying law at Lincoln's Inn became an aide-de-camp to his father.

After returning to settle in Hong Kong in the 1930s Kadoorie became chairman of the family-managed China Light and Power Company (CLP) and the prestigious Peninsula Hotel. On the 9th November 1938 he married Muriel (b. 1915), daughter of David Gubbay of Hong Kong. With the fall of Hong Kong in 1941 they, with their infant son and daughter, were interned by the Japanese in Stanley Camp, but in 1942 the family were transferred to Shanghai, living with relatives until they were interned in Chapei (Zhabei) Camp.

Kadoorie returned to Hong Kong in November 1945 and took charge of China Light and Power. The supply of electric power aided the recovery and development of Kowloon and the New Territories. Following objections to the tariff rates the 1959 report of a British-led commission of inquiry included a recommendation for nationalization. Nationalization, however, had not been the Hong Kong government's intention; instead tariffs and dividends were frozen, Lawrence came to timely financial arrangements with Esso (then Standard Oil, NJ), and together they worked out a government-agreed scheme of control. Indeed, China Light and Power's capacity grew from 19.5 mW in 1946 to 2656 mW in 1981; consumers increased from 24,000 to 949,000; and issued capital from HK$13.2 million to HK$2400 million, confirming the ability of a private sector, family-led utility both to provide the essential leadership and to keep vital supplies just ahead of the growing demands of Hong Kong's economic revolution.

Lawrence Kadoorie acted as the chairman of Sir Elly Kadoorie & Sons and was a member of the colony's legislative and executive councils. He held in all some 14 chairmanships, 20 directorships, and 20 memberships in important Hong Kong committees and/or companies, including the general committee of the Hong Kong general chamber of commerce and government planning and advisory committees. The most notable were his leadership in Nanyang Cotton Mill Ltd, Hong Kong Carpet Manufacturing Co., and Schroders Asia Ltd. In 1957 he was invited to become a director of the Hongkong Bank but was pressured to resign in 1967 when the British Bank of the Middle East (owned by the Hongkong Bank) became a target of riots. He retained a life chairmanship of China Light and oversaw notable Hong Kong landmarks such as the Peak Tram and the Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels.

Lawrence Kadoorie was a business taipan and adviser and he was well-known for his humanitarianism and philanthropic contributions. Lawrence, with his brother Horace, founded the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association to improve conditions for villagers and encourage development in the New Territories. Kadoorie was a member of the University of Hong Kong's council and court and a trustee and chairman of Hong Kong's Ohel Leah Synagogue. He was a justice of the peace from 1936 and accumulated honours including the Ramón Magsaysay award (of the Philippines, 1962), appointment as CBE (1969), a knighthood (1974), and appointment as commander of the Légion d'honneur (of France, 1982). Lawrence was chairman of the Hong Kong Photographic Society, patron of St John Ambulance, had an interest in sports cars and collected Chinese works of art, in particular jade.

In 1981 Lawrence Kadoorie was the first native of Hong Kong to be awarded a British life peerage. With negotiations proceeding relating to the retrocession of Hong Kong in 1997, Kadoorie later argued for measures to ensure the retention of British citizenship for the non-Chinese minority. Following six years of negotiations in 1985 he supported a joint project between China Light and China for the first nuclear plant at nearby Daya Bay, Hong Kong.

Kadoorie's health declined in 1993 and he died following chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cancer on 25 August 1993. Lawrence Kadoorie was buried on the 27th in the Jewish cemetery Happy Valley in Hong Kong.