Goodyear's shock exit from Temasek

Chip Goodyear leaves Temasek even before taking charge, over differences regarding strategic issues.

Charles (Chip) Goodyear will not, after all, become the first foreigner to run Temasek Holdings, the Singapore government investment company. The surprise announcement comes just four months into the leadership transition period, which should have ended with Goodyear taking over the reins from Ho Ching on October 1.

According to a statement released by Temasek late yesterday afternoon, the board of directors and Goodyear have "concluded and accepted that there are differences regarding certain strategic issues that could not be resolved". Hence they both decided that "it is in their mutual interests" to end the leadership transition process from August 15, at which time Goodyear will also step down from the board. Goodyear was appointed a member of the Temasek board on February 1 and CEO-designate exactly a month later.

"It is with much regret that both Chip and the board have accepted that it is best not to proceed with the leadership transition. We wish Chip all the best in his future endeavours, and are happy that Ho Ching has agreed to continue as executive director and CEO," Temasek's chairman S Dhanabalan said. 

Goodyear added that he too was sorry that we are unable to continue with the leadership transition. "Temasek has a fantastic platform and I wish the board, Ho Ching and the team all the best," he said. Temasek was unable to comment on any compensation package agreed with Goodyear.

Meanwhile, Ho Ching praised Goodyear's albeit brief contribution, but left open what those "strategic issues" might be, saying that, "in the short time with us, Chip has started a number of initiatives which I believe will help strengthen the Temasek platform. I am sorry he is unable to continue with the leadership transition, and hope to complete the initiatives that he has started".

Goodyear is the former boss of leading Anglo-Australian mining group BHP Billiton, and would have been the first foreigner to run Temasek, the smaller of Singapore's government investment companies. He left BHP Billiton in early 2008, having started as chief financial officer in 1999 after a career as an investment banker at Kidder Peabody.

His appointment to head Temasek had indicated that a redirection of the firm's investment policy towards the natural resources and energy sectors was likely. But Temasek said yesterday that any inference of a change in focus had merely been a rumour, and that the fund would continue to invest in several sectors, and seek various opportunities.

But it looks as if it's back to square one for Temasek in terms of the search for a new boss. In a further statement yesterday, chairman Dhanabalan said the board, including Ho Ching, has been engaged on the issue of CEO succession since early 2005. "This involves an annual review of both external and internal candidates over various time horizons [and] Temasek will continue with this annual succession planning process," he said. 

Ho, who is married to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took the helm at Temasek in 2004, and had aimed to diversify the fund's portfolio with about one-third invested in Singapore, one-third elsewhere in Asia, and the rest in developed economies. A clear investment philosophy was to invest in industries which should grow in tandem with an expansion of the region's middle class, such as healthcare and education providers. Banking and telecoms also entered the fund's radar.

In the financial sector, Temasek bought a 19% stake in Standard Chartered since 2006, but it was its combined $5.3 billion investment in Merrill Lynch in December 2007 and July last year, and its £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) investment in Barclays in 2007 that attracted most attention and which have caused the most pain. The fund made losses of more than $4 billion when it sold these stakes earlier this year.

The release of the fund's fiscal 2009 results in August will show how badly it was damaged by the collapse in stockmarkets last year. Temasek's portfolio lost $58 billion in value in the eight months to November 2008, leaving it with total assets of $84 billion, Singapore finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in May.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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