A TLC where losing $1m is “peanuts”

In Corporate governance, Temasek on 20/09/2011 at 7:19 am

This is the impression I get after reading in the nation building, constructive ST that the new CEO of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) abruptly cancelled the Night Safari’s Halloween Horrors event, despite the WRS having spent close to $1m on organising this popular annual event. This means that close to $1m will have to be written-off, as there will be no revenues from this popular event.

It’s not as though the WRS (owned 80% by Temasek and 20% by the S’pore Tourism Board) is rolling in money. I understand that this is one flea-ridden animal that cannot be sold because it is in constant need of financial injections. So she must have consulted and gotten her board of directors’ approval, before taking a million dollar hit.

So the board too must think that $1m is “peanuts”. Not their money leh. It is our money. We own Temask and the tourim board.

But let’s to fair to the CEO. Maybe she had a revelation from her god that god would provide, and that she convinced her board that her god was stronger than the devil. But what if she goofed? She has form in goofing.

The last thing newly elected president, Dr Tony Tan, needed after a bruising election campaign was for for his comments on the need to have more famiy bonding activities to be linked to the CEO’s cancellation of a popular event. “He kill-joy or something worse?”, I could hear the bloggers thinking. after her attempt at linkage. He was not amused and she had to apologise for her most unfair attempt to link his comments to her action.

Finally, does the devil have friends? 

She is getting a terrible press from the ST. Are there devil-worshippers among the reporters and editors of the ST? Remember they have form when it comes to attacking Christians, the devil’s arch-enemies. A few years ago, DPM Wong Kum Seng pointed out that the ST’s coverage of the AWARE fight was biased against the Christian members who opposed the old guard who they accused of promoting anal sex and homosexuality in schools. Note that the government withdrew AWARE’s status as a provider of sex education services to schools after the allegations were made.

  1. Yo atans1 she was revealed to be a Buddhist, though some said in the net she’s a lapsed Catholic. Don’t know where the Isabella comes from, as she don’t called herself that when she was in SembWaste and some oil company subsequently.

  2. ah, I was wondering who the shareholders of WRS were. Its not listed anywhere on their website, and not reported in the press.

    FYI, her statement on the WRS facebook (and later reported by the press) stated that management was consulted and the “board was informed”. My goodness, how any company executive could write-off $1mil without getting board approval is beyond me.

    Anyway it looks like Loh is coming up with one new (but still bad) reason after another to justify this bad decision.

    Check out her manipulation of words/statistics:

    ” However, in a statement last night, WRS chief executive Isabella Loh said the Halloween Horrors event “has not contributed to a noticeable increase in visitors in the month in which it occurred”.

    “By contrast, family-themed events such as the National Day celebration and Hari Raya have resulted in a significant increase in visitors to the park on peak days,” said Ms Loh ”

    1. What does “in the month in which it occured mean”? Compared to which month? And there could well have been a decrease in visitors if not for the HH show!

    2. Well of course if you throw open your doors, you’re sure to get a flood of visitors! Admission to Singaporeans and PRs was free in Aug (on account of National Day)
    Couldn’t find any official info on any Hari Raya promo, except for this blog post by a visitor who claimed it was a 50% discount for Malaysians:

    With all these giveaways, no wonder WRS is losing money! At least you’d presume that the premium tix for HH was allowing it to recover the costs for that event.

  3. I am really shocked by the apparent lack of accountability…

    In any real-world corporation, the CEO who just decides to pour S$1m down the drain will be definitely be hammered by the stakeholders

    I am sure the board will be in for quite a bit of flak as well if they blindly approve of the decision!

  4. Well, if you want to ask why WRS loses money, its like that old perennial question in the old days which you asked your local friends, “When was the last time you been to [Insert Name of Singaporean Tourist Attraction]?” You will probably get the traditional awkward silence.

    Singaporean Tourism Board does pretty reasonably well in marketing Singapore. But let’s face it, there is no compelling narrative to keep people going back to these places.

  5. DetachedObserver: Well, you have the quite hip Halloween thingy, which based on what I heard so far does a good job in attracting the young and have people queuing for tickets, which the new CEO decided to cancel in a huff.

    Xtrocious: Precisely. What the fuck is the BOD doing? They have problems with money is it? Unless it is such a money-losing project that they actually saves money by canceling the event. Which of course begs the awkward question, who authorize this in the first place and why has it been running consecutively for the past few years. I have donated money to WRS before, wonder if that entails me to ask them where the fuck is my money going heh

    Either way, WRS damn rich to just wash the 1 mil down the drain. Remember that the next time they come seeking for donations.

  6. I believe that in a few weeks or months, this incident will blow over and she will still be CEO getting her pay. Face it, most people will not hear or even care about this incident. All she needs to do to generate goodwill is to have a massive gimmick like half priced tickets or free entry or exclusive autographed Shell calendar poster and people will be falling over themselves to get in. That’s life I’m afraid. As long as you don’t piss off the majority (which is what happens to many despots) you’ll keep in power because most people only want to get food on the table, a holiday now and then, and to screw.

  7. This bloody Isabella Loh claimed Halloween Nights brought no significant increase in visitors?

    Then ask her where is the 4 million dollars revenue from the event last year came from? Is she prepared to top it up if next month’s gate collections fall short of 4 million dollars?

    She made a blunder and she still want to lie to the peoole with her faslse statistics, then she must be made to answer the above question.

  8. A million SINDollars is indeed a very small peanut
    when compared to tens or thousands of millions.


  9. My sincerest apologies Atans1, somehow only the F word can accurately conveys the emotion I am feeling at that time. I need to use the word exasperated more often haha

    Love trawling through the ST Forum Page this morning. Quite a few ‘interesting’ views popping out

    1. No noticeable increase in visitors because of HH
    Debunked by this irate guide who says that its swarmed with people, youths who turned up for the HH and other ‘regular’ visitors. Loved the irony of this letter.

    2. Must be creative with values
    Yes, it’s like Google, you know, do good blah blah blah. Except in this case, the value is in the extra publicity and revenue generated. (*assuming point 1 is sound). I like how people like to infuse ‘values’ with business practices. By the way, I am ‘exasperated’ when the writer demands that all public events must be aligned to Singapore’s fundamental values. Pray tell me what is that? No worshiping of the devils and like? Bye bye 7th Month.

    3. It is the right thing to do?
    Love the final letter. So what is the right thing to do? Neither the letter writer, or perhaps the editor (in his/her swiftness to cut the letter), can explain on that point. But I agreed with Mr Norman Tan. Time for the young kids to smell the roses, that life in the corporate world is, to phrase Thomas Hobbes, short, nasty and brutish.

  10. I can understand how Kain is feeling – definitely a WTF moment :p

    Transparency here is a clear as a sheet of lead…it’s very clear from the top down

    Anyway, I am very concerned by the BOD’s action or lack of action…

    Aren’t they in place to make sure that the CEO (or any CEO) don’t make such insane decisions?

    Well, to be technically correct – the CEO can still make dumb-ass decisions but it’s the BOD’s job to ensure that these decisions don’t get put into action…

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