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Heir leading Hong Kong's Swire group to make abrupt departure for UK

Chairman gives no reason for exit, but pledges to stay focused on region

Swire Pacific Chairman Merlin Swire, center, attends an earnings conference in 2019. He will leave the post in August, returning to the U.K. (Photo by Kenji Kawase)

HONG KONG -- The sixth-generation scion of the Swire family made a surprise announcement Friday evening, resigning as chairman of the Hong Kong-listed flagship conglomerate Swire Pacific and its key real estate arm Swire Properties.

Merlin Swire, the chairman of both companies, steps down Aug. 24 as he takes the role of chief executive at John Swire & Sons, the parent of the Swire group, based in London. He will remain a director of three Hong Kong-listed units, including Cathay Pacific Airways, but is returning to the U.K. after serving in the top positions at the Hong Kong units for only three years.

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