Court Dismisses Singaporean Man’s Lawsuit Against Father Over Failed Supermarket Business
A man who sued his father over an alleged verbal agreement to a higher stake in a failed family supermarket business has had his lawsuit dismissed.
Mr Kwek Hong Lim claimed that his father, Mr Kwek Sum Chuan, had agreed to give him a 60% stake in the supermarket and the property on which it sat.
However, the supermarket ended operations in 2018 after incurring significant losses, which the elder Kwek attributed to his son.
The lawsuit was thrown out after the elder Kwek denied making such an agreement and the court could not find further proof of it.
Father made son CEO of supermarket business in 2004
The elder Kwek first set up Yes Supermarket in 1999 and bought a first-floor unit on Tampines Street 21 in 2003 to run its outlet there, The Straits Times (ST) reported.
He owns 85% of the company, and the remaining stakes are distributed among his wife, his daughter Ms Kwek Joo Sim, and the plaintiff.
From the get-go, Mr Kwek and his father appeared to have differing accounts of events. The former claimed that his father appointed him CEO of Yes Supermarket in 2004 as the business flourished under him.
On the other hand, the defendant said that his son was the one who asked to become CEO. He then agreed in order to groom him. The elder Kwek had wanted his five children to be involved in the business but his son was “not substantially involved” before 2004.
In 2011, Mr Kwek allegedly received a job offer to be the CEO of a Malaysian company, according to Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
As a counteroffer, he claimed his father verbally offered him a 60% share of both the company and the Tampines property.
The elder Kwek, however, denied that this ever took place and said he never received a resignation letter from the plaintiff.
Son allegedly asked father multiple times to put agreement into writing
In 2012, Mr Kwek and his sister assumed director roles at Yes Supermarket. According to their father, this was to facilitate a larger role for them in the business.
During this time, the plaintiff claimed that he repeatedly requested his father to put the aforementioned agreement in writing.
One such discussion was recorded on video, which Mr Kwek submitted to the court to back up his claims.
Despite that, the defendant stated that the discussion was merely about plans to distribute his assets. He added that it was not intended to create a legally binding agreement.
Things took a turn for the worse in 2017 when the supermarket business began to fail. This led the father-and-son relationship to decline.
Son threatened to publicise dispute and sue father after supermarket spat
On 25 May 2018, the elder Kwek and other shareholders agreed to dissolve the supermarket.
At the time, he said he had offered to buy out his son’s shares for S$3 million. However, Mr Kwek asked for S$15 million instead.
The dispute led to the plaintiff threatening to take legal action against his father and publicise the matter.
CNA reported that the elder Kwek agreed to meet with his son as a result. During the meeting, the latter showed him a draft agreement.
While Mr Kwek allegedly agreed to the S$3 million buyout, the two could not see eye to eye on the other terms.
In June 2018, an article sharing Mr Kwek’s side of the story came out on Shin Min Daily News, according to ST.
The aforementioned video, news article, and a supposed offer letter from the Malaysian company were all presented as evidence of the agreement.
Judge dismissed lawsuit after determining son tends to exaggerate facts
The High Court dismissed the lawsuit last Thursday (23 Mar) on grounds that Mr Kwek could not prove his father had ever agreed to raise his shares in the supermarket.
In her written judgment, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng stated that the plaintiff is not a credible witness.
Furthermore, she said he tends to “exaggerate facts” and was never able to produce anything “cogent” to support his case.
For instance, the offer letter from the Malaysian company did not prove substantial as the plaintiff never even attempted to call anyone from the company to verify the letter, CNA reported.
As for the video, its authenticity was also suspect as the audio did not sync with the footage.
She also highlighted that Mr Kwek could have written his request for the verbal agreement to be put in writing. Instead, it seemed that he had only ever asked verbally.
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