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HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Here's why Sunningdale Tech's CEO fired himself

Koh Boon Hwee stepped down as company executive in 2008 at age 58.

Sunningdale Tech’s former CEO Koh Boon Hwee shared to Bloomberg that despite his four-decade career as a company executive, what he found most difficult was telling staff their time was up. However, it becomes more difficult when you have to call the time on yourself.

Koh, who is a Singapore entrepreneur, businessman, and technology investor, led a national airline through the SARS epidemic in 2003 and steered Southeast Asia’s largest bank in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapse.

“People run out of steam or they allow themselves to be left behind,” he said in an interview. “I’ve got to talk to this person and essentially remove this person from that job. I always struggle with those.”

Koh’s sentiments echo the fact that business succession is an issue in Singapore, where more than 60% of listed companies are family owned and transitions to new leadership are infrequent. It’s becoming especially pressing of late, as the baby boomer generation born in the years after World War II reach the age where they want to retire.

But Bloomberg says it was never such a concern for Koh. At Sunningdale Tech Ltd., which manufactures and sells plastic components for medical, consumer and automotive products, Koh stepped down after four years in charge in 2008, at the age of 58.

The transition has been smooth, if the company’s share price is any guide. It has surged more than fourfold since then, outperforming the 68% rise of the Straits Times Index.

“I am attached to the company but being attached to a company means you want it to be the best it possibly can,” said Koh, who now serves as non-executive chairman, removed from the day-to-day running of the firm. “And as time passes, you want younger people with more up-to-date ideas.”

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