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
"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
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
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."