Evolutionary approach to a wild ride

Evolutionary approach to a wild ride

SINGAPORE - In less than 25 years, Mr Lee Meng Tat went from approving loans, delivering lunch and selling beer to becoming the chief executive of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

The 50-year-old, who admits that he does not know much about animals, said his lack of expertise does not worry him. WRS owns the Singapore Zoo, Jurong BirdPark, Night Safari and the newly opened River Safari.

"Throughout my career, I've been asked to go into businesses that I did not have experience in," he said.

"When I went into the beer business, I didn't really drink beer but now, I can hold my liquor."

In his first full-length media interview since joining WRS one year ago, he comes across as personable and candid, but beneath that lies a sharp business mind that he has honed over the years.

Mr Lee studied mechanical engineering in university but became a bank loan officer after graduating. Then, he started his own lunch delivery business.

"I thought, why are other people making money as businessmen? I can do better than them. So I went into business and failed, almost went bankrupt," he said.

He got back on his feet and later had stints at the Economic Development Board, Singapore Tourism Board, and Fraser & Neave, where he spent about seven years in Shanghai on secondment to Asia Pacific Breweries.

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