Heavyweight is worth the wait - Michael Lynch to become CEO of WKCDA

exhibitionJust because he is a heavyweight means it is worth the wait.

The appointment of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) new Chief Executive Michael Lynch last week earned numerous favourable reviews from the media, a vote of confidence that the world renowned Australian art administrator is the man to lead WKCDA into a new stage.

"This is the biggest and most complex project in the world," a Wall Street Journal blog quoted Michael Lynch, the man who always talks straight from his gut. "We are about to move into "do" phase rather than "talk" phase."

In his admirable and colourful art administration career that included his casting for the comedy movie "Crocodile Dundee" 30 years ago to running world-famous Sydney Opera House to renovating "Royal Festive Hall" of Southbank Centre, Mr Lynch now chooses Hong Kong to be his next, if not the last, challenge because of his deep-rooted emotion here.

"I first came to Hong Kong when I was 13. I've been here many times over the course of the past 45 years," Mr Lynch was quoted from South China Morning Post. "I actually sailed into the harbour in 1963. And I now have an office looking out over the harbour. From my point of view, I think that I can certainly say I have enough understanding of what it's going to be like."

Mr Lynch made a splash in Hong Kong in 2009 when he participated in a West Kowloon forum hosted by Sir David Tang Wing-cheung. Chief Secretary and WKCDA chairman Henry Tang Ying-yen said on the date of Mr Lynch's appointment he was impressed by his presence there.

In that forum, Sir David joked that Michael Lynch wanted the CEO job but Mr Lynch replied "I would say that the person has to be young and very intelligent with enormous resources, political, financial, artistic and huge skills at charming, you know, the various constituencies and –

"So it is you!" Mr Lynch was interrupted by another panel member.

With his new appointment, Mr Lynch can now walk, rather than talk, his vision.

"We want the people of Hong Kong and press of Hong Kong to get behind the project and to be able to see as a fantastic thing for the future of art, artists and community of Hong Kong," Mr Lynch was quoted by Radio Television Hong Kong.

The way Mr lynch spoke had charmed the local press troops in just the first 3 minutes of their dialogue. In anticipating tough questions about his work commitment, Mr Lynch managed to throw a line that burst the press conference room into laughter.

"I assure you that I can still dance and sing and do all the things you expect of a chief executive," Mr Lynch was quoted by almost all newspapers and TV channels as saying.

"Do I look that bad?" Even Lynch can't stop chuckling. "If they think I'm going to fall over, this is not the case. Sixty years old is not too old, I don't think."

Mr Lynch wasted no time to tell his staff in the staff gathering later that day what he would expect from him.

"I will be here starting on July 25th so prepare yourself." he said. "My style is that I do want, particularly employees, to feel very open. I recognize I am working in a different environment but I think there is not that much difference between us on many fronts."

exhibitionTo prove his commitment, Mr Lynch would bring over his wife, Chrissy Sharp, who ran the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne, in September. Their three children, who all work in the arts and film industries in Australia, would visit Hong Kong very often, he added.

With a strong family support, little wonder Hong Kong Economic Times carried a headline that "his loving wife provided the strongest backup" to Mr Lynch, who is confident he would complete the three-year term and a healthy check-up.

He is a perfectly healthy man – so long as he could lose about 5 kilograms. Seven newspapers carried his funny line that his doctor had asked him to reduce eight kilos, but he had already lost three kilos upon hearing the appointment.

Now, who doesn't look forward to the debut of a heavyweight in July?

Career highlights

exhibition 2009 Appointed Director on the Board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a five-year term
2002 – 2009 Chief Executive, Southbank Centre; awarded Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the arts in 2008
1998 – 2002 Chief Executive, Sydney Opera House; awarded Order of Australia (AM) for services to arts administration in 2002
1994 – 1998 General Manager, Australia Council
1989 – 1994 General Manager, Sydney Theatre Company
1981 – 1989 Managing Director and Partner, Forcast Pty Ltd.
1980 – 1981 New South Wales Ministry for Education Office of the Minister
1979 Administrator, Australian National Playwrights Conference, Canberra
1976 – 1978 Manager, Nimrod Theatre, Sydney