Funnyman Mark Lee knows his business

Funnyman Mark Lee knows his business

Local celebrity Mark Lee, 44, always pays for his meals when he dines at OldTown White Coffee, even though he is the co-founder, having brought the Malaysian chain to Singapore in 2008.

Mr Lee may be known as a host-comedian to most people, but he is very serious when it comes to business.

When he got the Malaysian firm behind OldTown to team up with him, he got cracking. "Within three months, I chose East Coast Park for our first shop. I told them to trust me, it's a good location.

"We invested $300,000 in the first shop and just kept rolling the profits (to open other outlets)."

At that time, Mr Lee, who has been called Singapore's favourite Ah Beng, already had another business - he co-owns the Monsoon Group, which runs nine hair salons here and two in Shanghai.

So, he says: "I got a manager, gave him some shares, and said, 'Don't tell me about the staff quarrelling... You just handle it yourself. If (the staff) want higher pay, I will say give me higher sales. If you can give me what I want, I will give you what you want.'"

At the hair salons, when his wife told him that a staff member was getting a high $10,000 commission, he had no problem with it. "I said take $30,000 or $40,000. Because if they earn more commission, it means I make more profit."

But Mr Lee is first and foremost an actor, and most of the time he focuses on Galaxy Entertainment, a production and artist management firm that he co-founded. He is also a producer and director.

He has appeared in various movies, including the 1998 runaway box-office hit Money No Enough, along with other hits such as I Not Stupid and Ah Long Pte Ltd.

His new movie Judgement Day is due for release this Thursday.

He started filming before he got investors on board. "I have confidence that it will work, but it was very tough for the team. So I said, 'Okay, I won't do it again.'"

He is married to Ms Catherine Ng, 39, who handles his finances as well as those of his hair salon and cafe businesses. They have two children, Calista, who turns five in July, and Maksonn, one. A third one is on the way.

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