Saturday, June 1, 2013

What happened at THE STAR'S 2013 AGM, May 22?

The following appeared on the online Business Times Premium website, but have since been removed.

Wong Chun Wai (WCW)
Fong Chan Onn (FCO)
Vincent Lee (VL)
Koh Beng Huat (KBH)

There was a big turnout for the AGM. The venue (room next to
auditorium) was crammed and overflowed and this was pointed out by two
shareholders. "It is too small, you are not performing your social
responsibility and it looks bad."

A lot of shareholders expressed concern about the falling share price
saying if revenue, circulation and readership is going up as claimed
why the dip?

 One shareholder noted that even Star directors were selling their
shares to which one director said he is still buying.
FCO said Star is an investment stock, not a betting stock and still
pays good dividends.

A visibly upset shareholder criticized the paper for telling lies and
inaccurate reporting and said she represents many other readers with
similar sentiments. "If you don't report correctly, who will buy your

WCW responded by describing the shift in the sentiments of urban
voters/readers of Star as being anti-establishment /angry with
anything associated with BNasional. He said that Star was generally
accurate in its coverage and online portals like TMI and Malaysiakini
were sometimes wrong.

For example, he said Star never said Barisan would win in Penang. He
added they report what politicians say. The comment, "Don't talk
rubbish" was overheard while he was talking. He asked for
shareholders' patience in hearing him out WCW said he has to work in a
difficult situation as he has to answer to KDN (Home Ministry),
shareholders, owners, and readers. "I am praised and bashed by both
sides. We put Anwar on the page one with Najib and I got a shelling,"

An ex-employee said he would support a management buyout (MBO)
provided the buyers are those with a good reputation as he said it is
better if Star is out of the Barisan/MCA mode which comes with tight
controls and obligations.

 He also criticized the partisan advertisements in the run-up to GE13
ie "A vote for DAP is a vote for PAS" saying it had angered readers
and that they were ill-conceived and not thought out properly. The
directors reiterated there will be no MBO and MCA has no intention of
selling off Star.

Other shareholders asked what rates were charged for the political
advertisements but the BoD said it was given on a "group buying basis"
but did not reveal the actual rates. They said it was according to
"professional market pricing" and there was "no special treatment for

Another shareholder said the Star should lead the way in offering
unbiased and objective writing. Star writers should be professional
although she acknowledged that specialist writers/columnists have a
right to have their say.

A shareholder also questioned how the recommendations for the
re-election of directors are done. "The next AGM, when we elect a
director, please let us know what their contributions are."

Finally, after all the resolutions were passed by a show of hands, the
former general manager of Star, Koh Beng Huat, got up to speak. He
pointed out that he had given the secretary a list of written
questions and asked that the answers be read out. Most pertained to
the welfare of Star employees. He also asked about the progress of the
book which was to be published in conjunction with Star's 40th
anniversary. The answer was the editorial team was busy because of
GE13 and they are now editing and "verifying interviews."

KBH: This is the first time I have stepped forward since I left. The
humble workers laid the foundation for the company. The employees are
the most valuable asset but the impression given is otherwise.  I hear
a lot of negative remarks about the paper and the company - from both
current and former employees. Why couldn't Star retain Ho Kay Tat?  He
was a true professional. Did he leave because of politicking among the
top management?
I sold 30 lots of shares. The price has gone down from
3.20 to 2.60 after Ho Kay Tat left.
The performance bonus should be scrapped. I've seen how the system was
abused more than 30 years ago in NST, resulting in victimization and
favouritism. I don't want Star employees to feel the same. I know you
reward your favourites, those you don't like you minimise and cut off.

The ex-gratia bonus had been successfully implemented for many years.
It was a motivator to employees.
Star is not performing the way it should be performing. It used to be
among the top 100 companies by market capitalization. Something is
seriously wrong. We are told circulation and revenue is going up but
the share price is dropping. What are the directors doing?
I'm not protecting WCW, I'm sad for him. He is a professional. He
should concentrate full time on editorial matters. Don't get involved
with the BoD.

There is too much politicking - they will make use of you. He loves
the paper, so do I.  WCW don't spend time designing T-shirts and
accepting mock cheques. Don't spend time on the BoD. They will grill
you and politicians want to make use of you. Get out of the Board.

I am a lifetime member of MCA. MCA owns 40% - they act like they own
the paper. And whack each other like mad. Star should not get involved
in internal party politicking. You can't run Star like an advertising
agency. (VL interjected and said that Naga had been second largest
contributor to Star revenue).  Advertising is a dog eat dog. A
newspaper is very different.

Don't bully the staff, don't' take them for granted. Don't ignore
them. Treat them with respect. Take care of the employees - they are
our greatest asset. Star cares for its workers. Why is it until now
they have not been given their increment and performance bonus? Don't
give out titles as you like. Don't bully the employees and transfer
and redesignate them. This is not your father's company. David Yeoh is
a wonderful newspaperman. What is he doing in Penang?

The Star has achieved great success over the years but this year is
not going to be a good year. I heard a lot of negative comments about
the top management and BoD. The rate they are carrying on Star is
going downhill.

When I and Steven Tan went to see the chairman, FCO, when he was
Minister of Human Resources he brushed us off and said he was too
busy. The chairman and directors come and go. I hope FCO will not
brush us off this time and give a firm commitment. Make sure the
company is run properly. Don't disappoint
Tunku Abdul Rahman. Don't ignore his contribution.

2.  PUBLISHED MAY 24, 2013
Poll results a hot issue at Star AGM
A few shareholders accuse publication of supporting BN


WHAT was to have been a routine annual general  meeting of Star
Publications last Wednesday turned out to be anything but.
According to people present, one man told Wong Chun Wai, the firm's
editor and executive director, that though he remained a shareholder,
he had stopped buying the newspaper because of what he felt was the
publication's one-sided coverage that seemed to favour the ruling
Barisan Nasional.

Another accused Tony Fernandes, who was seeking re-election as the
firm's independent director, of using chartered flights to ferry
Bangladeshi "phantom" voters - a widely believed rumour spread by the
opposition - to cast ballots in the May 5 general election. Mr
Fernandes, the controlling shareholder of budget carrier Air Asia,
agreed that there had been chartered flights but said they had been
used to ferry Sabahans working in Johor home
to vote.

The general tone of many of the shareholders was hostile. "It was as
if the elections weren't ended," one shareholder who was present told
The Business Times. "Instead of talking about business or profit, they
just wanted the paper to bash the government."

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an assembly of overaged caterpillars hellbent on transforming into a BN can of worms. Undi Dacing Dapat Cacing!