Following Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) shift to a nonprofit business model, questions ensued regarding its sources of funding and editorial independence.
Raising these concerns during a press conference on 6 May, a journalist from Channel NewsAsia (CNA) got a response that shook us all.
Perhaps taken aback by her questions, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SPH, Mr Ng Yat Chung, promptly exclaimed that he took umbrage at her questions.
The response sent the term ‘umbrage’ to the No.1 most searched item on Google Singapore.
Turns out, Mr Ng was saying that he felt offended by the questions.
Fast skyrocketing to fame on the Internet, here are other things to know about the ex-Lieutenant-General, beyond his liberal usage of the now popular word.
Born in Singapore with the Chinese name 伍逸松, Mr Ng attended Victoria School — an all boys’ secondary school back in 1974.
He then went on to Hwa Chong Junior College for his pre-university education in 1978.
The latter school has come under the spotlight recently, but thankfully, Mr Ng didn’t announce his alma mater to the world.
Having received the prestigious Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship (SAFOS) in 1980, he got the chance to pursue his tertiary education overseas.
The SAFOS is second in prestige only to the President’s Scholarship, and provides for the highest levels of command in the SAF.
That also marked the start of his bond to a career in the army.
Mr Ng Yat Chung appears to have quite an impressive educational background, with a Bachelor of Arts and 3 Master’s degrees:
It’s thus, to no surprise, that he has managed to accumulate an impressive vocabulary.
If you’re wondering where he may have harnessed his stern demeanour and thunderous voice, well, the man had a military career spanning 28 years.
He was the Chief of Army in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for 3 years. Thereafter, he became the Chief of Defence Force – aka head of SAF – in 2003.
Back in the golden days, Mr Ng went by the rank Lieutenant-General (LG).
We don’t know how long it’s been since anyone called him that, but perhaps he was channelling that Lieutenant-General energy at the Q&A.
After exiting the army, the ex-LG did a 5-year tour in Temasek Holdings, a company owned by the Government of Singapore.
He held various positions there, including that of a senior managing director.
By now, you’d probably be impressed by his leadership portfolio. But wait, the man’s not done yet.
In 2011, Mr Ng became the CEO of Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), a home-grown shipping giant.
However, it later appeared that he was figuratively operating a sinking ship — the company allegedly incurred US$1.5 billion in losses during its last 4 years.
Guess you could say that the then-CEO was struggling to keep the firm afloat.
Unfortunately, attempts to salvage NOL couldn’t last, and the homegrown carrier had to be sold off to France’s CMA CGM.
Thankfully, the French firm was later able to turn the situation around.
The group recorded a net profit of US$26 million in Q1 2017, right after the sale.
Despite not going to any local university, Mr Ng sits on the Board of Trustees at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
In fact, he also received an Outstanding Service Award from the institution in 2013.
Apparently, he made significant contributions to the development of NUS facilities, especially that of the iconic University Town.
Now, UTown is a rather popular chillout spot, and we hope other facilities on campus don’t take umbrage at that fact.
NUS’ Honour Roll wasn’t the only roll Mr Ng was on, as he continued to ascend to prominent leadership positions.
Since 1 Sep 2017, he has been the CEO of SPH after Mr Alan Chan Heng Loon stepped down.
At the time of the handover, SPH Chairman Lee Boon Yang expressed his confidence “that [Ng would] provide far-sighted and effective leadership for SPH.”
Fast forward over 3 years later, and we wonder what his take is today.
SPH’s massive retrenchment process in 2017 shortly after didn’t set Mr Ng off to a good start.
Cutting around 230 jobs by year-end, the move apparently came when profits from the newspaper business continued to shrink.
The job reduction was allegedly a part of ‘restructuring‘ to adapt to the digital age.
Mr Ng’s response to the journalist’s concerns evidently came as a shock to many.
But let’s not allow this one moment to define him, as he’s much more than that.
Now that you know his background, perhaps you’ll know what to say if you ever strike up a conversation with him, so he won’t take umbrage if you don’t.
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