Corporate News

The Wonderful Life of Mr. Lee Man Tat


The Chairman of the Lee Kum Kee Group, Mr. Lee Man Tat, passed away peacefully on July 26, 2021, accompanied by his family members, at the age of 91.

Mr. Lee was an inspirational leader with a unique and forward-looking version. He constantly brought new insight and momentum to the Group and successfully transformed Lee Kum Kee into a world-renowned sauce and condiment brand. He was committed to promoting Chinese culinary and health regimen and diversified the Group into a sustainable enterprise.

He will always be deeply remembered by everyone for his legacy in constant entrepreneurship and perseverance to defy any limitations.

Mr. Lee Man Tat was born in 1930 and his ancestral home is in Qibao Town, Xinhui, Jiangmen, Guangdong, China. As the third- generation member of Lee Kum Kee - a hundred-year-old national enterprise in Hong Kong - Mr. Lee was the Chairman of the Lee Kum Kee Group. He was also a member of The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) for Foshan, Zhuhai and Xinhui, and received the honorary citizen award from Jiangmen and Xinhui.

A Visionary Leader Who Brings Lee Kum Kee to The World

In 1888, Lee Kum Sheung, the founder of Lee Kum Kee, invented oyster sauce by accident in Nanshui, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China, and founded Lee Kum Kee. In 1902, Lee Kum Sheung and his family moved to Macau, China. In 1920, Lee Shiu Nan, a second-generation member of the family took over leadership of the business, and moved the company headquarters to Hong Kong, China in 1932.

As the third-generation member of the Lee Kum Kee family, Mr. Lee Man Tat succeeded the business in 1972. Since then, Mr. Lee greatly expanded the business in overseas markets. He set up production facilities in Tai Po (Hong Kong, China), Xinhui, Huangpu (Guangdong, China), Jining (Shandong, China), the United States of America, Malaysia, and other countries where overseas modern technology and machine automation were applied to the production process. He also developed a structure and management system suitable for a modern enterprise, which transformed Lee Kum Kee from a small family business into a modernized enterprise. Concurrently, he created new product lines, turning oyster sauce, which had at one time had only been available to the wealthy, into a household necessity product for ordinary people and restaurants. Lee Man Tat made a decisive choice to start selling Lee Kum Kee products in the United States of America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and many other locations worldwide. Through his initiatives and innovation, Lee Kum Kee gradually became a globally recognized Chinese brand.

Mr. Lee Man Tat had five children: Lee Wai Man Eddy, Lee Wai Hung David, Lee Wai Chung Charlie, Lee Wai Sum Sammy, and Lee Mei Yu Elizabeth. Each of the children joined Lee Kum Kee, after finishing their studies abroad. They introduced inclusive thinking, open mindset and applied modern management theories they learned to Lee Kum Kee, with an intention to bring transformation to the century-old brand and enter the modern millennial era.

With four generations of hard work over three centuries, Lee Kum Kee has accomplished its first historical mission “to promote Chinese culinary culture worldwide”. It has become so popular that “where there are people, there is Lee Kum Kee”. In addition, Lee Kum Kee products were selected for use consecutively in space missions Shenzhou 9, Shenzhou 10, Shenzhou 11 and Shenzhou 12. Lee Kum Kee’s product even successfully landed on International Space Station. Now, “even where there are no people, there is Lee Kum Kee.”

In the 1990s, with a view to bringing diversity to the business model, Lee Kum Kee decided to enter the Chinese herbal health product industry. Mr. Lee Man Tat and Lee Wai Sum Sammy formed partnership with the First Military Medical University and jointly founded Infinitus in 1992. Since then, Infinitus has embarked on the second historical mission of the Lee family – “advocating the premium Chinese health regimen and nurturing healthier lives with balance, affluence and harmony”. After nearly 30 years of development and leveraging on the booming health industry, Infinitus has started its business from scratch and gradually grown into a leading enterprise of the industry.

Si Li Ji Ren (putting the interest of others in front of our own self-interest) – A Lifelong Dedication to Society

"Self-cultivation is an end in itself, not for the sake of reputation building; and we should always consider others' interest in work”. These are the words in a calligraphy scroll given to Mr. Lee Man Tat by an old calligraphy connoisseur in Taiwan, China.  Mr. Lee realised that the philosophy of “always consider others' interest in work” resonated with the business ethics of the Lee Kum Kee family, so he captured the four Chinese characters “Si Li Ji Ren” (putting the interest of others in front of our own self-interest ) from the scroll, had it framed and hung it up in his office. Mr. Lee believed considering collective benefits before acting to be the basic principle in life as well as the core value of Lee Kum Kee.

Fervently abiding by the corporate spirit of Si Li Ji Ren, bringing benefits to society, and sharing the fruit of success, Mr. Lee Man Tat set an exemplary standard of shouldering corporate responsibility. He was highly regarded by the citizens of his hometown for his generous contributions and advocacy for education, which made a significant impact throughout the community.

1990: Donation for building Lee Shiu Nan Memorial School and Chan Choi Kum Science Museum in Nanshui, Zhuhai, China;

1997: Donation of RMB 10.5 million for building Lee Man Tat Secondary School and establishing the scholarship fund;

1998: Donation of materials worth RMB 30 million for disaster relief, following the floods in China;

2002: Donation of RMB 10 million to build Lee Man Tat Medical & Life Science Library at Tsinghua University;

2013: Further donation to Lee Man Tat Secondary School for school site expansion, facility upgrades, incentives for teachers and scholarships for students to boost the education standard in hometown;

Since 2015: Sponsor the Lee Kum Kee Enterprise Scholarship in the Chinese Food Cooking & Nutrition of Guangzhou Tourism Business Vocational School for three consecutive years, to support the development of vocational education;

Since 2016: Donation of RMB 76.5 million to Xinhui, Jiangmen, China, for various infrastructure, including Lee Man Tat Bridge and Infinitus Bridge, significantly improving the local traffic situation.

Over decades, Mr. Lee Man Tat received numerous awards in recognition of his outstanding contributions to various communities in society. Main individual awards include:

2006: Appointment as Advisory Professor by Tsinghua University, China;

2008: Induction into the Babson College’s Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs;

2008: The China Charity Award – “The Most Caring Individual Donor Award in 2008” by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China;

2009: The “Industrialist of the Year Award” by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries;

2010: Bronze Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government;

2013: Elected as the “Leader of The Year” in the Business/Financial sector by Sing Tao News Corporation;

2017: Selected as one of the “Global Top Ten Outstanding Cantonese”;

2018: Silver Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government;

2018: Hong Kong Business Awards – “Lifetime Achievement Award” by DHL/South China Morning Post;

2020: “Distinguished Brand Leader Award” by the Hong Kong Brand Development Council and the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong.

Read about Obituary | Sorrowful memory of Mr. Lee Man Tat, Chairman of Lee Kum Kee Group: https://bit.ly/2TGALsp

More news: