SINGAPORE, NOV 11th - Mr Lim Kim San will step down as Executive Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Limited next month (December), after 14 years at the helm of the media group. He will remain in the Company as Senior Advisor.
In a statement to the Singapore Exchange today (Nov 11), the SPH Board of Directors said Mr Lim "has indicated that he will not be seeking re-election as a director and chairman’’ of the Board at the Company’s forthcoming Annual General Meeting on December 13.
Mr Lim Chin Beng, 70, who is currently an SPH Director, will become the non-executive Chairman following the AGM.
The Directors also announced that Mr Alan Chan Heng Loon, 49, currently Group President and a Director, will become Chief Executive Officer of SPH from January 1, 2003, the same day when Mr Lim becomes Senior Advisor.
In their statement, the Directors said: "It is with much regret that the SPH Directors accept his decision and they would like to express their heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Mr Lim for his invaluable contribution to the Company during his 14 years as Executive Chairman."
Mr Lim, who turns 86 later this month, said he had agreed to stay on as Senior Advisor at the request of the Board. He had wanted to step down last year, but was persuaded to continue until a new CEO was found.
He said of his decision: "My stepping down from the post of Executive Chairman and CEO is part of a self-renewal process in SPH. A strong corps of experienced specialists can maintain stability.
"However, the Group has to contend with the fast pace of change in the political, social and technological world. SPH needs people au fait with these changes to help it progress, especially when the media industry has become more competitive as it continues to be liberalised."
Mr Lim started his career in the private sector. He was a banker and industrialist, and the first Chairman of the Housing and Development Board before he entered politics in 1963.
During his 17 years in Cabinet, he held portfolios as diverse as National Development, Finance, Defence, Education, Environment and Communications. He was also Chairman of the Public Utilities Board from 1971-78 and Chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority from 1979-94, among his other top appointments. He retired from politics in early 1981. Today, he remains Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisors.
Under his 14-year stewardship of SPH, he reshaped the organisational and management structure of the Group, created in 1984 by a merger of three companies, and transformed it into a multi-platform media organisation.
Over the years, he initiated new products, injected a new team spirit within the Group, instituted a slew of cost-saving measures and established proper corporate housekeeping.
Through his continuing efforts to grow revenue and improve operational efficiency, the Group’s net profit increased four-fold from S$73.7 million in 1988 to S$307.4 million for the year ended August 2002. SPH is today the sixth largest publicly-listed company in Singapore, with a market capitalisation of S$7.3 billion - over four times the S$1.6 billion in 1989 after the demerger of Times Publishing.
Looking back on his 14 years in SPH, Mr Lim said: "I have thoroughly enjoyed my years with SPH. It has not always been smooth sailing. But the overall results have been satisfying.
"Now the weather outlook could be stormy. But I can, with confidence, say that the ship is in steady hands. There is every reason to believe that it will continue to steam ahead."
Known for his intuitive knack for judging people and spotting political talent, Mr Lim was cited by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1994 as one of the Government’s "political entrepreneurs’’, who has seized opportunities using powers of analysis, imagination, a sense of reality, drive and character.
Additional comments from SPH Management
Mr Alan Chan, incoming CEO, said he had met Mr Lim on many occasions since the first time in 1994 and had "learnt a great deal from him’’.
Recalling how he was asked by Mr Lim to join SPH as the Group President early this year, he said: "I took it as a big challenge and readily agreed, knowing full well that I would receive clear guidance from him."
He added: "I was certainly not disappointed. What has been imprinted in my mind since coming on board in July is Mr Lim’s desire to build a strong team, reward hard work and attract talent, and at the same time, his tenacity to control cost and create value for shareholders.
"I welcome Mr Lim’s appointment as the Senior Advisor in SPH and look forward to his continued counsel."
Mr Cheong Yip Seng, Editor-in-Chief of the English and Malay Newspapers Division in SPH, described Mr Lim as "an editor’s dream chief executive".
"He never pretended he knew what it took to practise journalism. Once he was satisfied he had an editor who knew his onions, he left him alone to do the job. In all his years at SPH, not once did he tell me what to report, what not to report, and what slant to give to a story. In this respect, he was an editor’s dream chief executive."
Noting Mr Lim’s gift for assessing people - "he could spot a fake from a mile away" - Mr Cheong added that he spoke his mind on issues his newspapers covered. "There was no waffling; no saying what is politically correct. For a media company, this was valuable input."
He recalled Mr Lim’s unrelenting quest for higher productivity and teamwork. The first time he met Mr Lim at SPH 14 years ago, Mr Lim made clear what he wanted from the staff: "A full day’s work for a full day’s pay."
Mr Chew Keng Juea, Senior Executive Vice President of the Chinese Newspapers Division, said he was glad that Mr Lim will stay on as Senior Advisor as "otherwise, it would be a great loss to SPH."
"His vast experience in government and business has greatly benefited the management team and the Group over the years," he said. "He has continuously led SPH to greater heights during his tenure as Executive Chairman despite the unavoidable economic cycles. I think it would be hard for anyone to match his influence and leadership."
On a personal note, Mr Chew, who has worked with Mr Lim since 1989, said: "I respect him not only as a boss but also as a mentor. Chairman is known to be a very disciplined, cost conscious person and he takes a hard-nosed approach to problem solving and decision making. At times, he can be very demanding but always fair and supportive to subordinates.
"Chairman once told me that to judge a person’s character, give that person money or power and observe how he behaves. Until then can one see the real character of that person. Over the years, I have observed many people and I am in total agreement with Chairman’s judgement."
Issued by Singapore Press Holdings Limited
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Singapore Press Holdings
Main board listed Singapore Press Holdings Limited is the leading news and information provider, offering quality content for print, Internet, TV and radio. It is licensed to publish 15 newspapers in the four official languages and six lifestyle periodicals. Everyday, 2.78 million individuals, or 90 per cent of people above 15 years old, read one of 15 newspapers published by SPH while online publication of its six main dailies enjoy some 120 million pageviews a month. SPH has ventured into the
broadcast medium and operates two popular free-to-air TV channels, Channel U in Chinese and Channel i in English.