Monday, April 1, 2013




            Please DON’T TRY TO BE TOO ‘KUAY LUN’!

            Dreaded to tell you know only childish behaviour.

            Will get Chan Wa & Wan Hong to finish you off in Guthrie.

                                                Fellow Colleagues

Of course the English in the letter was totally ungrammatical. It was all intentional.

When this awkward letter came through the mail, I showed it to my wife, “That sick man again…”

My wife said I should just ignore it.

But I was pretty upset. At Guthrie, if you were seen to be too far ahead in your climb of the corporate ladder there, you were bound to have detractors. I could tell from the body languages. Several faces immediately raced through my mind when I received a second letter:

            Kumpulan Guthrie



Subject Guthrie Reality

Date 1-4-1988

            Please come to terms with reality:

            You aren’t that clever after all! Only Tan Sri can be fooled, but not the others.

            Another resignation to obtain Asso. Director? NO WAY!

            Please be contented with your Fat Salary. Kita have to walk the fields predawn, mosquitoes bites, count the FFB, check the barks, suffer under the sun and rain to pay people like you who did Fxxx OFF.

            If only you’re ‘ SATU SUKU ‘ as smart as Y.B. KHALID HOW, then awak boleh berbohong.

  B.P. Semua Controllers dan Pengurus HNL

Could it be Gary whose reason for a certain recommendation was questioned by me in the management committee meeting and he did not like it?

Or was it Ooi who thought I torpedoed the Sabah acquisition?

Or could it be Raymond whose performance in the aqua farm was harshly criticized by me?

Or could it be…?

I intentionally showed the letter to a number of colleagues. I would observe very closely the body language of Gary, Ooi and Raymond each time I had the opportunity to socialize with them. Everyone of them seemed to be a suspect. It could not be.

* * * * *     

I do not like to entertain telephone calls after 10:30 p.m. I always think casual callers after this time do not have much common sense in them.

Very irritatingly, my telephone at home began to ring at odd hours, sometimes well past midnight. No sooner had the receiver been taken up than the line went dead. I knew these were the antics of a coward and did not quite bother. My late mother-in-law, who had on occasions picked up the telephone, was dead worried over my safety.

Knowing that I had courted the wrath of many, I had to take some basic precautions. Mat Shah, my driver, was most helpful. He would make sure my car was securely locked even though it was in the company’s compound. I did not want to be ambushed and held responsible for some unaccountable substances in the car.

* * * * *   

But the second letter rang a bell.

Khalid How? I thought I had heard somebody cynically addressed How Wan Hong, Guthrie’s director of marketing, as Ahmad How. But I just could not recall who had said it.

Having read Kepner Tregor[1], I had no difficulty short listing the suspects.

* * * * *    

Guthrie’s internal directory was a very comprehensive document. Within minutes, by the process of elimination, I was very positive that Yeoh must be the culprit. He was not in the list of my original suspects!

I sent him the following note:


Dear Yeoh

            I am in receipt of a very pleasant April 1st surprise. I believe it must have come from a friend like you. I thought I should drop a note to say “thank you”.

            Take good care.


P/s       If you do not object, I would like to extend the surprise to How as well.

His reply confirmed my suspicion. He returned the same note to me with the following disclaimer:


I do not spring surprises nor do I like surprises (except in golf).


He was still not satisfied and therefore telephoned me. The language was outright abusive. I did not have the evidence.

A day or two later, while I was reading my papers before leaving for the office, a call came through. It was Yeoh.

The confession was genuine.

I have never revealed his identity to anybody in Guthrie. He is still a senior manager there.

* * * * *  

Yeoh was working under Dato’ Sulaiman Sujak when Guthrie absorbed me. One of the first assignments I had in Guthrie was the one on Haron Estate.

Guthrie had entered into an agreement to sell the Haron Estate – a 1,500-or-so-acre property between Shah Alam and Klang - to one of the royal families. The decision was made before the Dawn Raid[2], when Guthrie was still in the hands of Orang Putih. Due to some technicalities, the sale could not be effected in time and since then it had become a very contentious issue between the royal family and the new management at Guthrie.

I had to have the background and Yeoh was naturally the man to talk to since he was handling the file then. Yeoh is also my countryman. We therefore took to each other quite well.

After I started to walk the “corridor of power”, as some colleagues had sarcastically put it to me, Yeoh asked if I could help to place him somewhere. He had been “cold-storaged” and wanted to have a new lease of life in Guthrie, otherwise, he said he would request to leave under the premise of “constructive dismissal”. He even came by my house a number of times to discuss his position.

I was asked to spearhead Guthrie’s diversification into property development since it had now taken over High & Low which had large tracts of land all over the Klang Valley.

I discussed Yeoh’s request with Dato’ Sulaiman.

“No, I think he is not quite suitable.” That was Dato’ Sulaiman’s advice.

I left the matter at that.

Yeoh was subsequently transferred out of the head-office. I saw him a few times after that. I could detect some hostility in his attitude towards me. But I really could not believe he was the author of those two poison-pens.

* * * * *

[1]           Author of “Rational Manager”, a must-read book in graduate management schools.
[2]           The celebrated Dawn Raid resulted in Guthrie coming under the control of Permodalan Nasional Berhad. The battle for control was staged in London.

1 comment:

  1. I too have my share as target for poison pen.The best one was when i was advisor to Alam Flora. The open letter accuse me as not being helpful to malay contractors,but did my very best to destroy them. The letter was copied to the PM and all heads of umno divisions.