Friday, May 16, 2008

Bright Lights Continue to Shine - Genting Highlands

In 1982 I moved to Taman Melawati, which is at the tail end of the Titiwangsa Range. One can’t help but become fascinated by the bright lights of Genting Highlands. On a clear night Genting looks like an array of jewels in the sky.
Last week I have one of the many short breaks with my family in Genting Highlands. The temperate weather allows one to walk around without the muggy heat following you like hungry mosquitoes. Everything is in its place. The place has everything. It is a very well-run and well-oiled business. Even the thousands of escalators are equipped riser brushes to prevent mishaps. You can't even find this safety feature in top shopping malls in KL.
What make it ticks so well? The reason I asked is because my son loves this place and has never decline an invitation to go up. He is a tough customer. He won’t move unless the benefits outweigh the ‘costs’. As the marketing people used to say get the kids you get the parents. Walk around this place, it is like a mini United Nations, albeit an Asian one. Even during weekdays the crowd is there.
Genting is famous in the annals of Malaysian corporate history. The struggle and success of its founder is well documented. Last year the founder, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong was feted at his 90th birthday. In the 43 years Genting’s combined market capitalization has grown to a massive USD24.8 billion.
The occasion was featured prominently in the STAR newspaper. The family picture was in the front page. The son, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay who succeeded his father in 2003, was reminiscing on his father's exploits. Very much in charge and only 53 years old it is considered a successful succession handover. This is especially so for a Chinese Family Business (CFB).
However, during that occasion the grandson, Justin Leong was given the bulk of the 'sound bites'. He has been put forward as the 3rd generation leader. He has gone to school in Harrow, London (Winston Churchill’s alma mater) and graduated from Oxford. He then worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.
I thought it was a PR coup for Genting to line up three generations of human capital that will future-proof Genting. They have debunked the old Chinese saying about CFB, "fu bu guo san dai" (family business and wealth won't pass through the third generation). Or the Mexicans one, and crudely put, “Father-entrepreneur, son-playboy and grandson-beggar.”

The Genting succession was seamless. When the founder – entrepreneur passed away the following year there was hardly a murmur in the stock market as to Genting shares. The son – consolidator is a steady hand and a proven businessman. Further, the grandson is also stamping his mark. Not shy, outspoken and aggressive, he is the most visible and the face of the future for this conglomerate. What he will become is up to him to define. He has the world at his feet. He joined Genting at the age of 26, as the Head of Strategic Investments & Corporate Affairs. Within 3 years he has taken Genting into a dominant position in the UK gaming business ahead of other leading players around the world. Then the famous foray into Sentosa, Singapore costing them USD3.9 billion.
For deeper understanding read Jennifer Chiang’s paper comparing the very Asian CFB with the Western model. Also search Family Business Magazine and Family Business Institute websites.

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