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'If I manage you don't manage, if you manage I don't manage': Mark Lee and Jack Neo on the rules when friends do business together

'If I manage you don't manage, if you manage I don't manage': Mark Lee and Jack Neo on the rules when friends do business together
Mark Lee, Jack Neo and Henry Thia at the recent Money No Enough 3 press conference.
PHOTO: Golden Village

Those who were born in the 1990s or earlier would be familiar with Jack Neo's comedy sketch show Comedy Nite which aired on Channel 8 every Monday at 8pm from 1990 to 2003.

The show created many iconic characters, such as Jack's Liang Ximei and Liang Popo, Mark Lee's Robert and Henry Thia's Lion King and Ms Lim with the iconic "Alamak!" catchphrase.

Besides collaborating in Comedy Nite, they were also frequently seen in Jack's films, including the Money No Enough franchise and horror comedy film Where Got Ghost?

Speaking to AsiaOne in an interview recently for their new movie Money No Enough 3, Jack, 63, Mark, 55 and Henry, 71, share about their 35 years together.

"I think we are representations of an era," said Jack.

He shared that he was mainly focused on acting back in the 90s, but switched to directing and working behind the scenes as he felt that there must be someone who was able to do it in their style.

Jack added: "We are really happy that after so many years, we are still in this industry and everyone didn't forget us. We are also very happy that we still have ideas that can continue to create these film projects."

Mark agreed, adding: "We are very happy that new generations are still able to accept and recognise us in different stages and platforms, including films.

"For example, in the past, when we saw Henry, we were used to recognising him as Miss Lim or Alamak. But children nowadays recognise Henry as Uncle Philip or Mr P-Lip from JianHao Tan's videos, which were viewed by youngsters. So the new generation can also accept his projects and performance."

'There will eventually be problems whether they earn money or not'

In Money No Enough 3, Jack, Mark and Henry play Ah Qiang, Ah Huang and Ah Hui respectively, who are young seniors with their own family and financial problems.


Ah Huang borrows money from his friends to operate an illegal business to pay his debts, but refuses to repay them once his business prospers. When one of his businesses eventually collapses, it affects not just his family but also Ah Hui's and Ah Qiang's loved ones, which makes them reflect on whether money is really the solution to all problems.

When asked if they believe in the common understanding that friends shouldn't do business together, Jack and Mark said that they do.

Mark said: "When friends do business together, there will eventually be problems whether they make money or not. Because when they do business together, everyone would want to manage it and there would be a lot of opinions.

"If one manages the business and the other doesn't, whether the business earns money or not, the one who doesn't manage it will also have problems. And when there are problems, the one who usually manages the business could say, 'Why, you don't trust me? Do you not believe me?'... So there would be a lot of problems arising."

Jack agreed, adding: "I feel that it is best if friends don't do business together. Because sometimes once they do business together, their friendship would be negatively affected. It's the same for siblings and people that you are familiar with."

'If I manage you don't manage, if you manage I don't manage'

But what if they really have to work together?

Mark shared that if friends have to work together, then the baseline would be, "If I manage you don't manage, if you manage I don't manage."

He added: "If both people manage the business, then there would be problems, because everyone does things differently. And there is nothing wrong with that. Communication is very important. There is no wrong way in either method — your way can earn money, my way can earn money too.


"But the problem comes when both parties want to use their way to manage a business, that's when disagreement arises, but it's nobody's fault."

According to earlier reports, Jack and Mark bought the rights to eatery chain OldTown White Coffee from Malaysia in 2008.

Mark revealed that they had sold the rights more than 10 years ago, in about 2013 to 2014, and while the business was under them, he managed it on his end.

Jack shared: "For OldTown, I didn't manage it."

'We also don't want them to overwork'

Mark's company King Kong Media Production currently oversees Henry's entertainment career and he shared that clear communication is crucial.

He said: "For Henry, if there is anything that he doesn't want to do, he would let me know. If there are any projects that he really wants to do, he would also tell me… For example, there are requests for Henry to do some performances, we would communicate with him clearly about what is required in the project and ask him if he is willing to take it up. If he is okay with it, then we would accept it for him.


"For Henry and Marcus Chin, they are getting older, so we also don't want them to overwork. We hope that they do what they like and enjoy anything they like on stage, rather than accepting a lot of jobs and money and tiring themselves out. As long as they are comfortable and happy and they are okay with the performance fee, then just go for it."

Marcus, 70, is also managed by King Kong. 

Money No Enough 3 also stars veteran local actress Xiang Yun as Ah Hui's wife, comedian-actress Patricia Mok as Ah Hui's younger sister and ex-television drama actress Tang Miaoling as Ah Qiang's wife. The movie will be released during Chinese New Year next year.


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