Family could be why SATS CEO quit

Clement Woon desires to be closer to family

Clement Woon’s decision to resign as the CEO of SATS could have been largely due to his desire to be closer to his family.

While Mr Woon did not elaborate or directly address the reasons for his sudden resignation last Friday, when asked by shareholders at the company’s AGM yesterday, he alluded to the fact that he had spend too much time away from his family who are living in Switzerland.

Mr Woon’s resignation, coming just four years after he took over at the helm of the airport ground services company, then expanded and diversified its business quickly, shocked many market insiders, coming as it did at a critical time for SATS. Besides facing a significant cost crunch which is shaving its profit margins, the company will soon be facing off against a new competition on its home ground with the impending arrival of a third ground services operator, American ground services giant Aircraft Service International Group.

Mr Woon joined SATS in November 2007, after 10 years in Switzerland with spatial surveying company Leica Geosystems.

At the time, he said that part of his reason for returning to Singapore was to be with his son, who was due to serve national service. He would have completed NS by now.

He and his wife, a homemaker, also have three daughters aged 18, 16 and 11. The plan was for the family to reunite when the children finish their schooling. Mr Woon has said before that leaving them behind in Kanton St Gallen – a village in Heerbrugg, Switzerland – had been very tough.

Addressing shareholders yesterday, SATS chairman Edmund Cheng said that the company had put out a global search for a new CEO, and assured them that the search would cover both external and internal candidates.

SATS’ foods business veteran Tan Chuan Lye has been appointed the interim CEO.

On Tuesday, SATS disappointed with a lower-than-expected first-quarter profit of $42.5 million, 4 per cent down from the previous year. This would have been even lower at $37 million if not for a $10.1 million writeback for lower pension obligations for its Japan based unit, TFK.

Analysts are cautious about the outlook for the company. Kim Eng maintained a ‘hold’ with a reduced target price of $2.46.

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