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    SINGAPORE - Mainboard-listed Sakae Holdings said in a filing to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Friday morning (Jan 15) that the trial for the suits filed by the company against various defendants will begin the same day in the Singapore High Court.

    One suit is against Mr Andy Ong for allegedly breaching duties when he was director of the company, among other allegations.

    A second suit to be heard is against various defendants who allegedly conducted the affairs of Griffin Real Estate Investment (GREIH) "in a manner that is oppressive and prejudicial" to the interests of Sakae, which is a minority shareholder of GREIH.

    In these two suits, some of the defendants have made third party claims against Sakae chairman Douglas Foo, said the company. These claims will also be heard by the High Court at the trial.

    There are two other suits which the High Court has directed will be deferred for now, said Sakae.

    The trial has been fixed for Jan 15 to March 4.

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    It was my first time listening to Andy Ong and I have not known much about him. My first impression was that he is a person full of drive and confidence, which are necessary ingredients for success.

    His entrepreneurial and property investment track records were very impressive. He started out as one of the earliest financial planners in Singapore and went on to start a financial planning magazine which was sold to a company. He was also a prolific writer who churned out many books on financial planning, and National University of Singapore was using one of those as a textbook. After his successful stint in the financial industry, he went to start up Entrepreneurís Resource Centre (ERC) Institute, and began his first step in the education industry.

    He said he used to buy shophouses in the past and now he had moved on to commercial properties. ERC bought the North Bridge Commercial Complex for $46 million in 2009 and sold it for $100+ million. ERC then bought Prime centre for $103 million in 2010.

    Using these examples as his credentials, he put himself as someone qualified to teach and the reason he wanted to teach is because one of his entrepreneur apprentice persuaded him to share his knowledge on property investing to the public. He said that he is only going to teach until 2013 and he would want to leave for another country to study full time. He always wanted to experience studying overseas. He added that he tends to leave an industry after 10 years and he felt he had done enough for the public. Probably because a change in environment is needed to renew his drive and enthusiasm.

    His property course spans 3 days and involve field trips where he would explain how he look at properties. After the course, there will be a few gatherings a year for him to update everyone on the property market trend. He will also evaluate the property portfolio for every student and advise how he will go about restructuring them. He even said all graduates must ask him for permission to buy any property, because he want to make sure his students make good investment decisions. He knows it is not easy for anyone to learn all he knows within the course and hence, he dedicates these 2 years to teach people how to fish.

    I have not attended the course before so I cannot comment on it. But you can read about the course review here. If you are interested to attend the preview, you can register here.

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    [url][email protected][/url]

    Grace Leong
    The Business Times
    Monday, Feb 04, 2013
    SINGAPORE - Two weeks after external auditors of Sakae Holdings Ltd flagged financial irregularities at an associate firm, Andy Ong Siew Kwee, a non-executive director of Sakae, which owns the Sakae Sushi chain, has been asked to resign from its board. In a filing with the Singapore Exchange last night, Sakae revealed that Mr Ong, who managed Griffin Real Estate Investment Holdings, had been identified as the person responsible for "various undisclosed irregular financial transactions . . . undertaken in (Griffin)" that may be in breach of the Companies Act.

    The board has asked Mr Ong to tender his resignation within seven days from Feb 1. If it does not receive his resignation in 14 days, it will convene an extraordinary general meeting to remove him from his position, Sakae said.

    Mr Ong could not be reached for comment.

    Sakae said in an earlier statement that the suspicious transactions were also in breach of a Sept 3, 2010, subscription and joint-venture agreement, and "may adversely affect (Sakae's) interests and the value of its investments" in the company.

    An international accounting firm commissioned by Sakae executive chairman and CEO Douglas Foo Peow Yong to investigate Griffin's accounting records reported that the suspicious transactions included payments of substantial sums that have been made by Griffin and "apparent contracts which purport to oblige (Griffin) to make substantial payments to companies majority-owned or controlled by Mr Ong".

    Sakae said that these transactions had not been properly disclosed to Sakae and Mr Foo, who is also the company's representative on Griffin's board. "As a director of the company, Andy Ong has both statutory and fiduciary duties that require him not to act against the interests of the company, and/or not to place himself in a conflict of interest position."

    In recommending Mr Ong's resignation, Sakae's nominating committee, which includes Mr Foo, cited the findings of the accounting firm's report, a written complaint filed by Sakae's lawyers to the Commercial Affairs Department, as well as a confidential report on Griffin that had earlier been submitted to the Minister of Finance.

    Under Section 207(9A) of the Companies Act, an auditor of a public company or a subsidiary of a public company, has a legal duty to report to the Minister of Finance immediately if he has reason to believe that a serious offence involving fraud or other dishonesty has been committed against the company by officers or employees of the company.

    Sakae said that it believed that Mr Ong should not be permitted to be present at board meetings or be privy to discussions and decisions by the board regarding the ongoing investigations and other confidential matters concerning Griffin and him.

    Mr Ong is also chief executive officer of ERC Holdings, which runs various businesses in education, training and property investments. According to ERC's website, he is a sought-after financial authority and had appeared frequently on CNBC, Bloomberg and Channel News Asia to speak on financial management issues.

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    Two investors in a legal spat with businessman Andy Ong have won a court order to place nearly half of the $203 million sale proceeds of Singapore's Big Hotel in trust or "escrow".

    The order bars the hotel's holding company, ERC Unicampus, and its directors including Mr Ong, from disposing of the $100 million in escrow. It is pending the outcome of a court hearing on Thursday to decide if the money should stay in escrow until the shareholders agree on how to divvy up the funds.

    But the order allows for the payment of conveyancing costs and taxes related to the sale. These include bank loans of more than $80 million and trade bills.

    The order was obtained on Tuesday - the day the sale of the 308-room Middle Road property to Hong Kong private equity group Gaw Capital Partners was completed. The investors - Mr Ho Shun Yau, 67, and Mr Yap Chew Loong, 62 - cited risks that the proceeds could be disposed of before the court hearing.

    Mr Yap, in court papers, said there were indications that ERC Holdings, a private investment company founded by Mr Ong, intends to apply the proceeds to its investments overseas, including a hotel in Vietnam, which would make it "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover these proceeds retroactively".

    But Mr Ong, a former director of Sakae Holdings, said that there is "no real risk" that the sale proceeds will be mismanaged.

    He said in court papers that ERC Unicampus has "every intention" of presenting the manner of profit distribution to the shareholders. He added that the strategy for distribution of proceeds will be presented at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

    The two investors are among about 200 people who invested more than $35 million in the 16-storey hotel around five years ago.

    Mr Ho and Mr Yap put their money in special purpose vehicles - called ERC Prime and ERC Prime II. These, in turn, hold stakes in ERC Unicampus, which owns the hotel.

    The two investors said that the audited financial statements of ERC Unicampus have been released in a "tardy fashion" for some years, making them concerned about the manner in which the sale proceeds will be distributed.

    Mr Ho said in court papers that Mr Ong had told investors that "all profits from the purchase and redevelopment of Big Hotel would be distributed equally back to the shareholders as dividends".

    Ms Koh Swee Yen, a partner of WongPartnership, is representing Mr Ho and Mr Yap, while Mr Ong's lawyer is Mr Vikram Nair, a partner at Rajah & Tann.

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    SINGAPORE - Japanese restaurant chain Sakae Holdings will have to pay more than $100,000 in legal costs and other fees relating to two lawsuits that the company brought against a previous director and subsequently dropped.

    Sakae had been ordered by the High Court last week to pay these costs to ex-director Andy Ong but the amount was only finalised yesterday, the two parties said.

    The company had initially brought four suits against Mr Ong, who Sakae claims mismanaged the finances of Griffin Real Estate Investment Holdings, Sakae's associate.

    Last week, Sakae withdrew two of the four applications: one to appoint receivers to preserve and secure Griffin's assets, and another to sue Mr Ong and Mr Ho Yew Kong, both former directors of Griffin, on behalf of Griffin.

    Following the withdrawal, Sakae was ordered by the court to pay the costs incurred for the dropped suits.

    The Straits Times understands that of the costs awarded yesterday, $90,000 was for Mr Ong's legal fees and $7,000 was for costs relating to a witness cross-examination.

    Another $16,000 was for disbursements, which are other out-of-pocket expenses, while the remaining amount was for costs incurred by Griffin.

    In his statement yesterday, Mr Ong said he felt "vindicated" by the "substantial amount" of costs he had been awarded by the High Court.

    A Sakae spokesman responded by saying that the award of costs was "not a court judgment on the merits of the discontinued legal actions".

    Sakae said last week that it withdrew the two applications because it had already achieved its aim of controlling Griffin's special bank account, which holds investment proceeds from Griffin's sale of strata shop units at Bugis Cube.

    - See more at: [url][/url]

    Sakae had added that having to pay Mr Ong's costs was simply a matter of procedure. Yesterday, the company reiterated these points and added that it will pursue its remaining two suits against Mr Ong.

    Sakae is suing Mr Ong for alleged breach of duties when he was Sakae's independent director, and also filing a defamation suit against public relations firm Financial PR for refusing to retract a press statement that it had issued on Mr Ong's behalf.

    Mr Ong also said in his statement that he had received a letter from lawyers representing PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm Sakae chief executive Douglas Foo had hired to look into Griffin's accounting records.

    According to Mr Ong, the letter said PwC had not given Mr Foo permission to use its report in his complaint to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and in his court affidavits.

    In response, Sakae's spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday that while PwC "did not expressly authorise the use of its report in the court affidavit of Douglas and the CAD complaint, it is significant to note that, to date, PwC has not withdrawn any of its findings against Andy Ong".

    He added that Sakae's lawyers have been informed that the CAD is currently investigating the reports made by the Sakae regarding the alleged financial irregularities in Griffin.

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