Asia

Two sons of former president Ong Teng Cheong face off in court battle over family business

SINGAPORE – Two sons of former Singapore president Ong Teng Cheong are facing off in court in a dispute over shareholdings in the holding company that controls the family business.

Older brother Tze Guan, who has a 28.45 per cent stake in Ong&Ong Holdings, has sued his younger brother Tze Boon and six other shareholders for minority oppression.

The suit, filed in April, was first reported by Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao on Thursday (July 1).

Mr Ong Teng Cheong, who served as Singapore’s first elected president from 1993 to 1999, died in 2002 at the age of 66.

In his court filing, Tze Guan alleges that Tze Boon, who holds a 70.43 per cent stake in the family’s architecture and engineering business, has conducted the affairs of the group of companies in a manner that is oppressive and unfairly prejudicial to him.

The conduct included Tze Guan’s removal as a director from nine companies in the group between June 2018 and January 2019, as well as other financial matters.

Tze Guan is asking the High Court to order the defendants to buy him out, either at an agreed price or at a price fixed by an independent expert.

However, Tze Boon and the other defendants contend in their defence that Tze Guan’s allegations are factually and legally baseless.

Tze Boon has made a counterclaim against his older brother, seeking the repayment of an outstanding personal loan – with interest – he had given Tze Guan two decades ago.

According to court papers, Tze Boon lent Tze Guan a total of $700,000 in 2002 and 2003. Tze Guan has repaid $219,983.56.

Tze Boon has also counterclaimed against Tze Guan for defamation.

He contends that various allegations of minority oppression set out in letters sent to them by Tze Guan’s lawyers on April 21 last year amounted to defamation.

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