Monday, June 14, 2010

The Edge’s Ho Kay Tat to join Star Publications

By Habhajan Singh
The Star, Malaysia’s largest selling English newspaper that is beginning to make inroads into new territories like radio and the Internet, is set to embrace Ho Kay Tat (picture) as the newest member of its senior management team.
The 51-year-old group chief editor of The Edge group may join Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd as an executive director and chief operating officer, according to an industry source.
"The deal was done last week," said one source.
A source close to the white-haired editor believes that Ho may assume the role of Star’s managing director, a position now assumed by Linda Ngiam Pick Ngoh, who is said to be retiring next year. She is also Star’s CEO.
Since Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s won the MCA presidency in March in a threecornered fight against incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, industry insiders had began speculating it would result in changes at the Star senior management.
The Chinese political party controls the newspaper via its investment arm, Huaren Holdings Bhd, which has a 41.5% stake in the listed publisher.
The grapevine was flushed with various possibilities, with some speculating that the changing of the guard at the political party would lead to the departure of the publisher’s executive deputy chairman Datuk Clement Hii Chii Kok. Clement Hii, 53, came on board as a director on Jan 5, 2009 and later redesignated to the current position days later.
The Sarawakian, himself a former journalist, is also the group managing director of SEG International Bhd. One source said that Ho had met Clement Hii to discuss the possibility of his move ‘many weeks ago’. Ho has been in journalism for 24 years. He spent six years with the News Straits Times Press (Malaysia) Bhd before joining Reuters in 1990 and served as the KL correspondent for the Singapore Business Times in 1994.
He joined The Edge as an editor in August 1996 and later became its editor-in-chief (EIC).
For some years, he had also served as The Edge’s managing director, a role he gave up towards the last quarter of 2009. The Edge’s deputy EIC Dorothy Teoh is expected to take over from Ho. Ho could not be connected at press time.
This is not the first time that an editorial person is being moved into the management role, noted Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd’s group EIC Datuk A Kadir Jasin. "It is not out of the ordinary. If you recall, Star’s previous MD Datuk Steven Tan was also a journalist. He crossed over from journalism to management and went on to become one of the most successful MDs at The Star," said Kadir, a former NSTP group EIC.
In January 2009, Star announced the complete exit of Steven Tan from the company, to pave the way for Clement Hii’s entry. Tan had in June 2008 voluntarily retired as group MD/CEO, to be succeeded by Ngiam.
Online news portal, MalaysiaKini, first went to town on Friday with the story of Ho joining The Star, observing that the top echelon in The Star can expect more drama as Dr Chua tightens his grip on the party-owned media. It said the daily has suffered a setback in terms of reader perception following the MCA presidential elections early this year when the paper was seen to be ‘taking sides’ in the battle for the presidency of the country’s largest Chinese political party.
Following close on its heels, The Malaysian Insider ran a similar story the next day. This news portal added that MCA’s Dr Chua is also set to name the newspaper’s new non-executive chairman, identified as former banker Kuah Han Liang, who was previously with Deutsche Bank Malaysia, contrary, it said, to speculations that the post was going to Royal Selangor International MD Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on 17 May 2010. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh)