Helfer quits; Chua rises to head Raffles

10 March 2003

BERLIN - After 17 years with the Raffles group, president and CEO of Raffles Holdings will leave the Singapore-based hotel company on April 10.

News of his resignation, the subject of intense speculation the past few months, hit Singapore's hotel circles' last Friday evening.

Taking over the reins will be Jennie Chua, currently deputy CEO (operations and marketing) of Raffles Holdings and president and COO of Raffles International, the hotel management arm of Raffles Holdings.

Assisting her will be Leong Wai Leng, currently deputy CEO (finance & investments), who will become deputy CEO of Raffles Holdings.

The leadership change could herald restructuring and organisational changes at the Singapore hotel company, which bought Swissotel two years ago at what competitors said was too high a price for the difficult market conditions in its bid to become a global hotel company.

Chairman Cheng Wai Kheng, in a press release, cited the many significant achievements of Helfer "including the listing of the company in 1999 and bringing the group from a single hotel entity to being a truly global hotel chain today".

"His recent achievements, including the successful divestment of 55 percent of Raffles City, the acquisition and integration of the Swissotel chain of hotels, which expanded the group's global reach, establishment of strategic alliances and product brand extensions, and introduction of innovative concepts have given the group a strong foundation. We wish him all the best as he pursues new opportunities."

Cheng said that "going forward, the business imperatives for profit growth will require organisational restructuring and succession planning to meet the challenges and changes demanded in an increasingly difficult market."

Chua, who started her career with the group when she became general manager of Raffles Hotel, is known to have strong relationships with the owning board.

Chua has publicly stated her intention to retire imminently although observers say she has been saying this for years, yet her career path seems to indicate the opposite.

With her rise to the top at a hotel company that is facing tremendous pressures in an increasingly difficult market, it is clear Chua will not be retiring soon.

Chua, who is attending ITB Berlin, declined comment on her new role for now. The only comment she was heard to make, when someone congratulated her at a Raffles cocktail party at Swissotel Berlin Saturday night, was, "It is only a change in title."

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