PETALING JAYA - In a move that is a seen as a precursor to a wider plan of succession, tycoon Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan has relinquished his position as the chairman and stepped down from the board of one of his key companies, Guoco Group Ltd.
He left the Hong Kong-listed Guoco on Sept 1, according to a filing by the company.
Quek also relinquished his position as a director and chairman of Singapore-listed GL Ltd (formerly known as GuocoLeisure) last Friday. The stated reason for the tycoon's departure is internal restructuring of the Hong Leong group, according to the filings of both companies.
Guoco said in a statement that "Quek confirmed that he has no disagreement with the board and that there is no matter in relation to his relinquishment that needs to be brought to the attention of the shareholders of the company".
With effect from Sept 1, Kwek Leng Hai has been redesignated from president, chief executive officer to the executive chairman of Guoco. Kwek, who is Quek's brother, was also recently appointed chairman of GL.
Guoco is Quek's flagship company that holds a multitude of companies in the financial services, hospitality and leisure, and gaming sectors.
The tycoon controls 76.12 per cent of Guoco, through his ultimate private vehicle Hong Leong Co (M) Bhd. Some speculate that Quek leaving is part of a succession planning and distribution of responsibility among family members.
The 73-year-old has been in the driving seat of Guoco all this while, having held the executive chairman's position since 1990.
"Quek is the eldest of the brothers and may be beginning to pass the reins to his younger siblings and children.
"The group has operations spread across continents and it could be that the running of the business is being split into regions such as the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Malaysia/Singapore," reckoned an industry player familiar with the Hong Leong group.
Besides Kwek, Quek has three other brothers.
Painting a possible scenario, the industry player said the brothers may take charge of different geographic areas.
"Quek take responsibility over UK where there are plans to expand the gaming business, Kwek likely of Hong Kong, while Malaysia/Singapore markets to the others," he said.
In terms of corporate holdings, Guoco controls 66.5 per cent of GL, a company with interests in hotels, leisure and gaming and 65.2 per cent of Singapore-listed GuocoLand Ltd, which undertakes property development activities on behalf of Hong Leong group. The latter holds 65 per cent of GuocoLand (M) Bhd that is listed on Bursa Malaysia.
The group also controls Hong Leong Financial Group Bhd (HLFG) - the Malaysian banking arm that in turn controls 64.3 per cent of Hong Leong Bank Bhd and 81.33 per cent of Hong Leong Capital Bhd ((HLCap), which is now suspended from trading on Bursa Malaysia after a failed buyout attempt.
Elsewhere, the group has a strategic 14 per cent stake in Bank of East Asia of Hong Kong and controls gaming concern Rank plc, which is listed in London.
In July this year, Quek's youngest son Quek Kon Sean resigned from his directorship positions in HLFG and HLCap to assume a new position within the Hong Leong group.
StarBiz reported quoting sources that Quek Kon Sean could be taking on a bigger role in the Hong Leong group's property ventures following its foray into the sector recently.
There is also talk that a corporate streamlining at HLFG is imminent after the company received Bank Negara's nod to start negotiating stake sales in its insurance business.
In 2013, Quek tried to take Guoco private, but failed even though he had raised the offer price from the initial HK$88 (S$15.45) in December 2012 to HK$100 per share four months later.
Guoco shares closed at HK$86.55, giving it a market cap of HK$28.62 billion.
Quek is listed as Malaysia's third-richest man by Forbes with a net worth estimated at US$5.3 billion (S$7.2 billion).