Last lap for Cheah as CEO at C&C

SINGAPORE - Former national sprinter Cheah Kim Teck will reach the finish line in his role as chief executive of Jardine Cycle & Carriage's motor operations at the end of the year.

Jardine C&C said in a statement to the stock exchange that Mr Cheah, 62, will be succeeded by Mr Haslam Grey Preeston, 37.

Mr Preeston, a former soldier with the British army, has held various positions within the Jardine Matheson group.

Before his latest appointment, he was general manager of PT Jakarta Land, a Jardine joint venture in Indonesia.

Mr Cheah will stay on as a non-executive director and to oversee Jardine C&C's emerging automotive markets in the region.

The group has set up joint ventures in Vietnam and, most recently, Myanmar.

"There are still many markets where we are not present," he said. "Like Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Thailand."

In Myanmar, it has a Mercedes-Benz distribution business, which sells Mercedes-Benz passenger and commercial vehicles as well as Fuso lorries.

It has been in Vietnam since 2008, where it assembles and retails Kia vehicles among others.

Recently, it added Mazda to the list - it assembles the CX-5 crossover and Mazda2 hatchback there.

Mr Cheah said it will add Peugeot to the line-up soon.

The veteran motor trader has spent more than 20 years at Cycle & Carriage, where he basked in the glory days in the 1990s when its star franchise, Mercedes-Benz, was untouchable.

He steered the group through a particularly difficult patch when Daimler took back the distributorship of Mercedes, relegating Cycle & Carriage to dealer status.

When Cycle & Carriage bought into Indonesian conglomerate Astra International to make up for its loss of the Mercedes distributorship, Mr Cheah assumed an active role in running its auto retail business there.

In his new role, he will continue to grow the group's budding auto businesses in the region, as well as groom successors like Mr Preeston and Mr Eric Chan, the chief operating officer who has taken over the Singapore motor division.

"I'm happy that I've something reasonably exciting and meaningful to do," he told The Straits Times yesterday, adding that that was his main criterion for staying on. "I certainly don't need a desk, an office... or free coffee," he added.

Besides being a corporate figure, Mr Cheah is in the public arena. He was on the Tote Board up to last year and is now deputy chairman of the Singapore Sports Council.

Still bearing the lean frame of a runner, Mr Cheah was part of the 4x400m men's relay team that set a national record at the 1974 Asian Games in Teheran. The record still stands.

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