Li Ka-shing’s CK Asset Furloughs Most Staff at U.K. Pub Chain

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s real-estate company has furloughed more than 95% of the staff at U.K. pub operator Greene King, the company said on Friday.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of businesses such as bars and restaurants in the country in March, prompting Greene King to close all of its pubs. The company has about 38,000 staff across its operations in England, Scotland and Wales that include 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels, Li’s CK Asset Holdings Ltd. said on its website.

CK Asset bought Greene King for 2.7 billion pounds ($3.3 billion) in late 2019, taking a bet on the U.K.’s pub industry near the close of Brexit. The transaction came after Li’s son Victor Li took the helm of the company. The elder Li has a net worth of $25.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him Hong Kong’s richest tycoon.

The Hong Kong company said during the acquisition that it wasn’t planning to make material changes to the employment and management at Greene King. But the furlough is part of “necessary changes” in light of the virus outbreak and “current changes to the business composition and operations are expected to be temporary,” it said in a statement on April 24.

Greene King plans to end furlough arrangements “when appropriate” and for employees to have the opportunity to return to their roles within the company, according to the statement.

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