It was not until the mid-nineteen-eighties that graphic design began to move into independent design consultancies. Prior to this, almost all design for brochures, leaflets, logos and signage was created within the advertising agencies. For this reason, we have included Sannie Abdul in this advertising archive and partly because his contribution was not recognised elsewhere until the Singapore Design Jubilee Awards which he received posthumously in 2015.
He was also a rather shy and unassuming man which is probably why he was often overlooked. However, he was a true design pioneer in Singapore. He trained as an architect, first at the Singapore Polytechnic and then went on to study this and industrial design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Sannie also interned at Olivetti’s design group on a UN scholarship. He served as head of the Industrial Design Centre at the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research (now Spring Singapore) and then moved to RSP Architects.
It was his next move in the mid-1980 to the Trade Development Board (now IES) that led to his contribution nationally to design. He helped organise the first International Design Forum in 1988, a major step that signalled the Government’s recognition of the important role played by design. This event gave a much needed boost to the local design industry.
Sannie went on to set up the Design Centre in North Bridge Road next to the Cathay cinema, where local design across many disciplines were displayed as well as a large collection of books on design. The design industry and associations were bitterly disappointed when this closed. Singapore had to wait more than two decades to see another design centre open on the island.
Sannie was elected in 1993 to Executive Board of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.
After his retirement, he taught at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Nanyang Polytechnic until 2013.
Sannie Abdul died on 20 August, 2014.
It was by his efforts that taxi advertising was lifted from being a second-class medium to a showcase for Singapore’s top talent. Thomas Ang became the GM of Comfort in 1994 and created the Comfort Creative Challenge. Year after year, the creative teams fought to win the top prize – a trip to the Cannes Advertising Festival. From simple taxi tops, the medium developed into wholly-painted taxis and amazing three-dimensional structures.
His promotion of the outdoor industry did not stop with his own company. Thomas Ang was an early supporter of AdAsia’s Singapore Outdoor Advertising Awards with financial sponsorship.
Sadly, in 2002 when Comfort was absorbed into DelGro, the competition ended and Thomas Ang moved on. He surfaced again helping MediaCorp launch their outdoor advertising division before starting up Space Arena and promoting the Media Expo show.
Thomas Ang should be remembered as a prominent initiator in the outdoor advertising field.
In the 1970’s and early 80s, Ian Batey and his ad agency Batey Ads were renown in Singapore. Under his close direction, Batey Ads became the probably first advertising agency, local or international, that won creative awards internationally. Most of the accolades were for work created for the SIA campaigns. The iconic Singapore Girl and the line ‘A great way to fly’ became internationally recognised. The ads created in his Hong Kong Street office ran across the world.
Ian Batey was born in Scotland in 1937 but grew up in Australia. An account man, he came to Singapore in 1969 to work for McCann Erickson handling the Malaysia-Singapore airlines account. When the airline was broken up between Singapore and Malaysian operations, he was asked to set up an in-house agency for the new airline. The Government of Singapore wanted this fleet of just a couple of planes to become an international airline and Singapore International Airways was formed. Batey Ads was set up in 1972 in Chinatown over a UOB bank branch with Ian himself at CEO. Eventually, the agency was allowed to take on other accounts and gained Singapore Tourism Board and UOB as major clients. As SIA expanded so did Batey Ads.
Some may say Ian Batey lacked good personal communication skills but there is no doubt his eye for good photography and his insistence on high creative standards at a period when generally Singapore advertising was not reaching the standards seen today, earns him a place here as a Prominent Person.
A well-known advertising figure in the 1980s was Spenser Chan. He studied behavioral science at University and started his career at Jardines. At that time long-established trading companies like Jardines and Boustead were the distributers of many large Western brands.
He moved into the agency world via Lash-Compton (Compton later bought over Saatchi & Saatchi but the cuckoo soon took over the nest!). He moved onto Lintas starting as an account servicing executive and moving up to be an account director. He stayed with this agency for five years before joining McCann-Erickson where he was responsible for Kodak and GM. Chan eventually became Director of Professional Services overseeing the account servicing teams.
He went on to work at Ogilvy with Peter Stenying and Rob Pullen. Chan had a brief stay with AdCom & Grey but this did not work out so he formed Spenser Kaslan & Friends. When Kaslan left the agency, it became Spenser Chan & Friends. His agency soon attracted major advertising accounts like Cycle & Carriage and Pacific Pacific Hotels. Ian Batey, enjoying the riches of handling SIA, wanted a stake in the new agency but it was BBDO which final bought a large share in the business and it became Spenser BBDO, with Chan as the CEO.
The collaboration worked well and the agency acquired regional accounts for Hyatt (which meant divesting Pan Pacific), Visa, Gillette and Silk Air. The talented Loo Boon Beng was the creative director. As often happens, a regional guy came into the picture and Chan felt it was time to say goodbye to BBDO.
Spenser Chan then struck out in a new direction, moving into merchant banking and then emerging as a venture capitalist. He also built a number of luxury homes in Singapore. By 2017, Chan had moved to the opposite end of the housing spectrum, developing low cost housing in Thailand.
Arguably the most famous of the expat creative men who passed through Singapore, David Droga was at 27 made the Executive Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore. He started is advertising career in the mail room of Grey’s Sydney office and after enrolling in the Australian Writer and Art Directors School emerged the top student. He join Sydney agency, Omon, where he later became a partner. While he was CD, Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore was named ‘International Agency of the Year’ by Advertising Age. In 1998, still only 29, Droga moved to London to become Executive Creative Director. From 2003 to 2006, he was Worldwide Chief Creative Director of Publicis. He founded Droga5 in 2006 and settled in New York where he continues to live with his wife and four children. He and his agency have won a string of awards.
Australian John Finn spent many years in Singapore and was part of the leap forward in advertising standards. He started his career as an art director in Melbourne with John Clemenger after having worked for a few years in London.
He first came to Singapore in 1971 and worked for McCann Erickson under CD Peter Hutton. John, and his writer partner Peter Hammond, working with account director Rick Scott-Blackall, created the original airline girl for Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). She morphed, kebaya and all, into the iconic Singapore Girl when the airline split into SIA and MAS. Finn later worked at Batey Ads, set up by Ian Batey and Rick Scott-Blackall, over a period of twenty years, returning to his home country occasionaly.
Finn set a high bar for creative standards in Singapore which in those days was not apparent even in the international ad agencies. His feel for type, eye for photography and his design ability found expression in high-profile campaigns for SIA, United Overseas Bank, Tangs Studio, Tiger Beer and Mercedes Benz.
This talented art director has won many awards including New York Art Directors Club, Clio Awards, International Broadcasting awards and Cannes.
Between 1996 and 1998, moved into film direction making use of his experience of working with high-profile directors on SIA and UOB and his advertising background. He returned to advertising for a couple of years working not only for Batey Ads again but also Dentsu, Young & Rubicam, focusing on film production.
He remained in Singapore, still working freelance, until 2015 when he retired to the Philippines.
Neil French was one of the more colourful personalities who washed up on Singapore’s shore and entered the ad business where he quickly made his mark. French came from the UK leaving behind a colourful history by his own account (bull fighter, pub owner, band manager, etc. and even hints at trouble with the law and the tax man). He rose to prominence in the mid-eighties when partnering with Rod Pulley, the young MD of Ogilvy, he lifted the creative profile of Ogilvy & Mather. He then went on to be the creative director of Meridien advertising, the second Ogilvy network headed by Michael Ball. Eventually in 1986, Ball bought over the Meridien network and called it The Ball Partnership where French continued to bring recognition by his outstanding creative work. He also joined Batey Ads run by the legendary Ian Batey but it was no surprise to anyone in the industry that this relationship did not last long. French eventually linked up once again with Ogilvy when he accepted the post as Worldwide Creative Director in the WPP group. He got into hot water Toronto in 2005 over a remark made about lady creative directors not becoming great because they had to take time off whenever their kids were ill. This created a fuss in North America and French was barred by WPP from speaking at the Creative Circle Awards in Singapore and the AdAsia ‘O5 conference later in the same year. Several prominent lady creatives came to his defence saying he had been very supportive in their experience. In fact, he married, encouraged and initially mentored, Linda Locke, a Singaporean lady, who went on to have a stellar career in the business.
Allein Moore commented that Neil likes to say controversial things to shake people up and to entertain. Moore said he’d sat with Neil during his radio show ‘Advertising and Moore’ when he defended scam ads, then the scourge of the award shows in Asia. He also remembers French telling a seminar audience that clients should not put logos on ads. He is actually an amusing and very civil man, claims Moore, he just likes to prod people and make them think.
French now lives in Spain with his son but still makes the occasional visit to Asia.
By the 1990s, John Hagley was best remembered by the agency which still bears his name, Hagley & Hoyle. This was a hot-shot creative agency in its day thanks due mainly to his talent. John spanned advertising and design in the days when the two disciplines were not so exclusive. He had a particular ability to design logos and symbols, and was asked to create one for the 4As. This was used up to very recent times.
Unlike many ex-pats, Hagley had no choice in his first trip to Singapore. He was sent by the British Government to fight the communists in the Malaya jungle as part of compulsory national service. He fell in love with Singapore and a couple of ladies whom he made his wives.
He was an accomplished photographer and fine artist. His paintings were exhibited in several gallery shows. He was also a keen motorcyclist and rode right around Asia.
Hagley was also a high-ranking Freemason. Incidentally, his friend Kurt Rolfes, a well-known photographer and voice over artist during this period, shared this interest. Hagley designed a stained glass window that can still be seen today in Freemason’s Hall in Coleman Street
After founding Hagley & Hoyle, he left to be a partner in Advertising Consultants with Lucy Chan. When Fortune Advertising took over AC, John set up John Hagley Communications Pte Ltd. He worked for a long time out of his apartment near Newton Circus (a block famous for advertising and media types). Eventually, he opened up an office in Bukit Timah Road. His largest account was Courts furniture store and he handled this almost single-handedly for at least two decades. He sold his agency to Batey ads in the 1980s, which was setting up a retail division.
John Hagley helped start the first Creative Circle awards in the early 70s and was still held in enough regard in 1985 to be asked to be Chairman of the new Creative Circle awards, an event which has been revived in 1981by Lynn Smith, Allein Moore, John Archer and others.
He retired in the early nineties to a home overlooking a loch in Scotland. He died in 2014.
Canadian Hugh Harrison worked for McCann Erickson, Singapore in the 1980s. He was a popular figure in the advertising scene in those days. He worked on a number of major accounts but what has brought him into this section of the Archive are the songs he wrote for Singapore’s National Days. Few subsequent songs for this annual event have proved as popular and enduring as Harrison’s.
The then Ministry of Culture asked a number of the ad agencies in Singapore to pitch for a campaign for the significant 25th anniversary of independence. Apparently, and as usual, this was a rush weekend job for the agency staff and Hugh was in Lion Studios working on a Coca-Cola advertisement on the Monday. In a spare moment, he sat down at the piano and laid down a track which became famous as 'Stand-Up for Singapore'. It won McCann-Erickson this major Government project. By the time, National Day came around again, Hugh was on his way to Hong Kong and a new job. But once again, at the Singapore Government’s request, he penned a song which is still a favourite today – 'Count on Me Singapore'. He followed this success with 'We are Singapore'. Harrison has had a notable career and his talents extend far beyond song writing. He is now back in his native Canada. But each year, Singaporeans will remember this foreigner through his songs that captured the spirit of the nation.
Dennis Khoo held senior roles in Nestle in Singapore and Malaysia and had worked with the company in Switzerland and Hong Kong. He succeeded Patrick Mowe as President of Singapore Advertisers Association and position held from 1982 to 1985. He had served several years a Vice-President of the Association and was very supportive of the Ad Ball and other activities in the ad industry. Khoo died in April 2007 at just 68.
Vince Khoo was for many years was a prominent member of the advertising industry. He studied fine arts in London but returned to join S.H.Benson as an account executive in 1968.
After gaining experience on major accounts in 1975, he was asked to set up a Singapore branch of a Hong Kong agency CCA International. Frustrated, after proving his business success with this agency and not being able to buy in, he set up a local agency with some partners and named it AdCom.
He brought in Grey Advertising as a partner but later on bought the American agency out and eventually his partners. His agency became one of the foremost local agencies despite the competition from the international agencies which started to come into Singapore in great numbers.
Vince Khoo was elected president of the 4As, a post he held for nine years and under his leadership the 4As introduced fees for pitching and fought against discounts on normal agency commission.
He won two Max Lewis Silver medals and one Gold. Max Lewis awards were started by Max Lewis who had been Chairman of F&N.
He served on several Government committees.
In 2014, he still remained Chairman of AdCom with his son Adam Khoo, who was then better known than his father because of his work in education, as CEO of the agency.
Sadly, the agency did not fare as well under his son, and the agency folded in 2016.
Jayne Kwek is currently the CEO of Moove Media, the advertising arm and part of the Comfort Delgo Group. It is not surprising that she has remained closely associated with advertising industry most of her life. Her mother, Laura Tan, used to sell advertising space over the telephone from their flat in Tiong Bahru Estate Singapore while the young Jayne played at her feet. Her mother started 3 Aces, one of Singapore’s largest outdoor bus banner companies, and after a brief spell in a shipyard, Jayne joined her mother. Later, following her husband to Florida, she attended a Community College course which the encouraged entrepreneurial spirit resulting in her running a successful clothes business. Jayne returned to Singapore and became the CEO of 3Aces. But, as she was now a mother, she was drawn towards publishing and created the Kids Guide magazine. She went on to help produce books on families and kids for the Ministry of Community Development. In 1999 she started City Dreams, a company focusing on advertising on taxi cabs. There her imagination blossomed and she was behind many innovations in that media such as three dimensional taxi tops and ads on taxi wheels.
The company was bought over by APN Australia 18 months later. After a two-year sabbatical in Australia’s Gold Coast, she returned to Singapore and was asked to revamp the advertising arm of Comfort Delgro, the biggest bus and taxi company in Singapore. Moove Media soon became a well-known brand due to the famous cows that Jayne Kwek introduced as a promotional gimmick. Because of the promotional cow images, Moove became Mooove! The cut-out wooden cows were planted around Singapore and were so popular that most were eventually stolen! She had red hearts tied around 3,000 trees islandwide to raise awareness for World Heart Day and Jayne Kwek continues to push for innovative ideas. In 2007, a local trade magazine placed her in the top 20 innovators in Singapore.
She rose from being an assistant art director at Batey Ads to becoming the prominent, and some say feared, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Asia. Linda Locke is a Singaporean (her English father was in the management of Cold Storage and her mother was Portuguese-Armenian descent). Locke studied graphic design in England and returned to Singapore only to settle family issues. But, on her return, was offered the opportunity to design the interior of Batey Ads. She says having dated an architect for six years gave her the confidence to accept the project. On its completion, she decided to stay in Singapore and asked Ian Batey if she could join the art department of his agency. It proved a good training ground as she was surrounded by several outstanding writers and art directors brought in to work on the giant SIA account. She cut her teeth on the Air Lanka account which was also handled by Batey.
She moved on to work at Leo Burnett from 1980 to 1983 as an art director but her lucky break came when she joined Paul Gaffey, an Australian creative director who had been appointed MD at Saatchi Compton. It was said that Gaffey was not up to the job, but whatever the reason, Locke took a more prominent role combining management with a creative oversight. She soon proved her worth and moved the agency, now rebranded as Saatchi & Saatchi, to one of the leading Singapore creative agencies. Linda Locke became the Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Asia and CEO and ECD of the Singapore office.
She returned to Leo Burnett in 1997 as ECD and Chairman and soon became Regional Creative Director, Asia Pacific, helping turn this rather staid agency group into a leading regional creative force. During this time, Locke mentored many young men and women who have gone on to leading roles in the industry.
The awards won by Locke and her offices are too numerous to list but each agency was voted one of the most successful by the trade media and ranked highly in the awards tables.
Locke married to Neil French, the creative guru who was then new to Singapore. It was a surprisingly short courtship – just ten days – but the marriage lasted eight years. She has since remarried and has a son.
By the time of her retirement in 2007, Linda Locke was a highly respected member of the advertising profession. She continues, at the time of writing this piece, to offer creative and marketing advice through her company 'Godmother Pte Ltd'.
Long May Ling
At a time when there were few Singaporean creative directors, Long May Ling has the distinction, perhaps, as being Singapore’s first female creative director. A big smile and strong personality, combined with an outstanding creative talent, made her one of the prominent creative directors of her time. She started the first all-woman agency, Quantum Advertising, along with Laura Tien in the early 80s. It handled Tangs and Post Office Bank and other accounts. This agency and another local agency later merged with Foote Cone & Belding. May Ling left FCB to become Creative Director of Dailey, Naidu, and Chan (DNC), then an important local agency in the late 80s, handling McDonald's fast food restaurants. Her next stint was with Zender Fang, another Singaporean agency before leaving for London in 1997. She took with her Graham Cadwallader, a CD at Y&R, Lintas Singapore and Matari Advertising Indonesia, whom she had earlier married. They both now live in England.
Few creative directors stay more than a few years in an ad agency. Their ambition, boredom with accounts, or change in the management, usually sees an early departure.
Patrick Low was unusual in that he remained with Y&R from 1987 to 2009, retiring as Executive Creative Director. In 2007, Low was voted Singapore’s Creative Director of the Year at the Advertising Hall of Fame Awards.
He started his career, as did several of the outstanding advertising people, at Fortune Advertising, at that time the largest local advertising agency, working with Eugene Cheong who was also just starting out in the business and with Allein Moore, the creative director of the agency. After three years, he moved in 1981 to Ogilvy & Mather where he won his first international award in the One Show. Low went on to win many local and international awards in his long career, working on accounts such as SingTel, Ikea, Epson, Singapore Tourism Board, Toyota, Citibank and many others.
In 1985, he became the first Singaporean to chair the Creative Circle and in 2005 he was bestowed the honour of Champion of the Creative Circle Awards by the 4As for his contribution to Singapore’s advertising industry.
In October 2009, Patrick Low founded Goodfellas where at the time of writing (2015) he continues as CEO. He also sits in the advisory board of Temasek Polytechnic School of Design, a role he has played since 1999.
Low is remembered fondly in his agency days for his modesty and approachability which endeared him to clients and staff.
Patrick Mowe retired at the age of 76 on December 13, 2010 after serving for many years as Executive Director and latterly as Advisor to the Institute of Advertising Singapore. It was the end of a distinguished career in publishing and advertising. He credits his start in the business to Alan Green, the managing director of Cathay Advertising, who organised the Joint Education Committee for Advertising, the predecessor of IAS.
Patrick Mowe first rose to the notice of the publishing industry as General Manager of Federal Publications and concurrently of the magazine division of the Straits Times Group. He left was he describes as a comfortable position to become Director and General Manager of MPH Bookstores which had originally been a publisher of text books for Singapore and Malaya for the Methodist Mission. MPH has lost money for 11 years and Mowe was brought in to stop the bleeding.
He ended the educational publishing focus and reinvented MPH as a bookstore chain as well as handling book distribution. Mowe also moved MPH into magazine publishing and launched Female Magazine and Silver Kris, Singapore airlines inflight magazine. These two magazines were later bought by his ex-employer, now known as Singapore Press Holdings, for $40 million. During his business career, Mowe was very active in trade organisations. He was the first president of the Singapore Advertisers Association (SAA) formed after the split from the Malaysia Advertisers Association and he organised the first Singapore Advertising Congress. He was concurrently President of the Singapore Publishers Association.
Patrick was asked to help revive the Institute of Advertising Singapore in 1996 and his success in raising funds helped the organisation turn the corner. He was renown as a bulldog in this regard. During his time in IAS he pulled in major advertisers and senior advertising executives to support the ornanisation. He negotiated to bring the New York EFFIES to Singapore and founded the APPIES, which highlighted successful marketing campaigns in the region (he credits David Tang of BBD for the name ‘APPIES’). The Hall of Fame Awards was another brainchild of Mowe. He helped organised conferences and started, in conjunction with MRT, the annual “Singapore’s Most Influential Creative Director” contest. Under his guidance and with his industry contacts, IAS grew in stature.
As we publish this article, Patrick is still busy writing and thinking up new ideas. He is a true pioneer of the advertising and advertising industry, and a real gentleman.
In the late 70s and early 80s, a local agency led by a Singaporean was one of the largest ad agencies in Singapore. That man was Sonny Ong. He was an ambitious young account director when he bought over Fortune Advertising from a retiring owner. The agency wasn’t making much money but Ong discovered a bonus amongst its assets. Lee Kuan Yew was not keen on outdoor advertising in the early days of the Republic having seen the lively but messy streets of Hong Kong festooned with gaudy fluorescent advertising bill boards. The Singapore Government put a stop to any new advertising sites. Ong discovered he now owned a site at Newton Circus and a major group at Gullimard Circus. The old owner had not bothered with these sites but Ong quickly turned them into cash cows to support his new agency.
Sonny Ong was a flamboyant man who flaunted his Rolex watch and wore gold necklaces and bracelets. Most of his business was conducted on the golf course or in swanky lounges. However unlike many of his Chinese contemporaries in the ad business, he recognised that overseas talent was vital if he was to compete with the international agencies. He employed a Dutch expat and then went on to hire Englishman Allein Moore from Batey Ads. He also offered opportunities to start in the ad business to locals like Patrick Low, Eugene Cheong, Victor Yeow, Perry Goh and John Tan. Successful entrepreneur Najfit Singh started there as a copywriter.
It was said that Ong would send a wreath to anyone who deserted his ship, but Allein Moore recalls only a gentlemanly farewell and a gold pen when he final moved on to an international agency.
Ong’s agency went on to win the DBS account despite strong competition from international agencies. He added Cycle & Carriage and the Mercedes account and started Asia Ads so he could also handle the Toyota and other conflicting accounts.
It was his venture into another business, property speculation, that led to his downfall and that of his agency. The crash in the early 90s resulted in a cash crisis for him and his agency. Having personally guaranteed SPH for the ad space and unable to meet this large demand, he chose to skip the country and now lives in the USA.
Ong’s luck deserted him in the end but he will be remembered as an important figure in the development of advertising in Singapore.
2014. Laura Tan, 84, in her own words, “a down-to-earth, hardworking person” is the Founder and Director of 3 Aces Advertising, Singapore's largest outdoor bus banner agency. She started this company from scratch with only primary education. The company is now part of the Ad Planet group. (Ad Planet group is owned and founded by Adrian Tan who is her youngest son).
Born in a peranakan family, Laura Tan saw the poverty and suffering of World War 2. Her education was shortened by the Japanese occupation and she claims to have completed it by reading Mills and Boon books in the English language. She did not have a regular job until she was 35 when she began canvassing ads for a company called Techno. She found she had an aptitude for it and saw an opportunity to sell space on the back of buses. In 1970, Laura Tan, together with two more partners, founded 3 Aces Advertising, an outdoor advertising agency marketing bus rear panels, side panels and later wholly bodied buses for Singapore Traction Company that later became Singapore Bus Service. She developed wholly painted buses and taxi tops in those early years.
Today 3 Aces offers outdoor communications, mainstream advertising and branding. At the time of writing, Laura Tan has not fully retired and still goes into the office twice a week.
Tham Khai Meng
Tham Khai Meng is the Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather. A Singaporean, he studied design at Central St. Martins London and returned to work in Leo Burnett, McCann Erickson and Batey Ads in Singapore. He joined Ogilvy as Regional Creative Director in 2000. Tham is a highly-awarded creative man and has served on many creative juries including Cannes Lions. In 2009, he received the President’s Design Award in Singapore. Tham has taught Master classes at his old college, St Martins and the Royal College of Art. He now lives in New York in an old fire station which was once the home of Andy Warhol.
Tham Khai Wor
In his role as Executive Vice President of Marketing at Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Tham Khai Wor was an imposing and perhaps intimidating figure. He spent thirty-three years with SPH before retiring in 2005. He served as president of the Master Printers Association from 1983 to 1984 and eleven years as President of the Advertising Media Owners Association until 1997 and continued to serve as an Honorary Advisor. He was Director in the Asia Federation of Advertising Associations and Governor of the Institute of Advertising, Singapore. In recognition of his contribution to advertising, he was awarded the prestigious Max Lewis Award for Excellence in 2005. He continues to act as a consultant in the field marketing, brand management and media relations.
Ms Kuah Sok Khim, who worked at SPH for a number of years wrote, “The mere mention of the name Tham Khai Wor used to send shudders down my spine. As a new recruit in 2000 to SPH Classified Division, I heard about this man who was authoritative, meticulous, a superb golfer, and could be recognised by his booming voice and beautiful suits (Zegna and other upmarket brands) which he wore around the corridors of the newspaper office. Obviously, I had no interaction with him in the early days until I found myself sitting next to him at a luncheon event. I could hardly touch my food being conscious of his presence but he proved surprisingly friendly, and able to put me and everyone at ease. I left SPH eventually and stayed in the industry in other roles but Tham Khai Wor remained a friend over the subsequent years. However, I must confess, that I still find it hard not to call him Mr Tham, as he was a boss for whom I had the utmost respect.”