The Hong Kong Observation Wheel has escaped demolition, saved in a last-minute deal struck by the current and future operators of the wheel last night.
Swiss AEX, the former tenant of the Central Harbourfront venue, and new occupant The Entertainment Corporation Limited (TECL) released a joint statement at 8pm last night, saying the companies had signed all the necessary contracts to transfer ownership of the 60 meter-high Ferris wheel.
In the statement, the companies thanked Hong Kong businessman Allan Zeman for his help in facilitating the final discussions during the, at-times contentious, negotiations over the past five weeks.
Zeman, also known as “Father of Lan Kwai Fong”, later revealed that TECL had agreed to pay a total of HK$116 million, about US$14.8 million, for the wheel and its foundation.
According to Oriental Daily, the wheel and all its parts belong to Ferris wheel manufacturer Dutch Wheels, while the foundation was built in 2013 by Swiss AEX. TECL will reportedly pay HK$41 million to Swiss AEX to purchase the base while another HK$74 million will go to Dutch Wheels.
Zeman said the deal was good news for Hong Kong as the city would be spared the embarrassment of scrapping the high-profile Harbourfront attraction.
“It’s a win, win, win for everyone, but it was not easy,” he told SCMP.
A TECL spokesperson said in the statement that the company was delighted to have reached this point. “It has been a challenging road so far, given there is no precedent for the transfer of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel between operators,” it said.
Timothy Peirson-Smith, spokesperson for Swiss AEX, echoed that, saying both the companies believed the agreement was “in the best interests of the Hong Kong community and our tourism industry”.
TECL will now begin the necessary licensing processes so as to reopen the Observation Wheel, which has been closed for more than a week now.
The new Ferris wheel operator has earlier pledged to offer a substantially lower ticket price per ride. It has been rumored that ticket prices will be slashed from HK$100 to just HK$20, local Chinese-language newspaper Topick reported.