The man who saved Durai from bankruptcy

The man who saved Durai from bankruptcy
Mr Lionel Edgar Charles Letts (right), who died of pneumonia on Sunday at age 95, gave former National Kidney Foundation chief T. T. Durai (left) $1 million in 2007.

SINGAPORE - He was a seasoned businessman who was hard to persuade of a cause, let alone help a man facing a $4.05 million bankruptcy.

Yet Mr Lionel Edgar Charles Letts, who died of pneumonia on Sunday at age 95, did just that when he gave former National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chief T. T. Durai $1 million in 2007.

That gift, offered over lunch, was a lifeline to a friend. But Mr Letts knew something about being on the brink.

As a soldier and prisoner of war during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, he escaped a beheading by the guards as the war ended before it could be carried out.

Mr Letts liked to joke later that his success and fortune in life were due to luck and his ability to keep his head on his shoulders.

He continued to work from the office of his own company in Raffles Place till about a fortnight ago. Though having to use a wheelchair for several years and ailing in health, he was lucid till the very end, said his family.

Mr Letts is survived by his wife Cecilia, daughter Billie, son-in-law Rohaizat and several relatives here and abroad.

His family members described him as a strong-willed and determined fighter who worked through everything no matter how tough it got.

"Nothing really got him down, he always saw an upside," said a relative who requested not to be identified. "Even when he was not well, he never saw that as a hindrance or a hurdle."

He enjoyed working and the "little things" in life like walking in the woods.

Mr Letts was a main board director of conglomerate Jardine Matheson & Co for 15 years before he set up his own business, Ilco. He also served as director or adviser on companies in a wide range of industries, including REA Holdings, the China Investment Fund and Multi Mechsindo Industries in Indonesia.

His company looked after his various interests abroad, including palm oil in Indonesia and gold mining in Australia, Brazil and Argentina.

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