Friday, December 29, 2006

A $20m Christmas gift to charity, courtesy of Creative's Sim

UPDATE: Sim Wong Hoo's mother passed on recently. He further donated another $10million and renamed the Sim Foundation to Sim-Tan Siok Kee Foundation in memory of his mother.

SINGAPORE'S answer to Bill Gates — Creative Technology's Sim Wong Hoo — is also fitting the bill, so to speak, in terms of philanthropic leadership.

Mr Sim, Creative's chairman and chief executive, revealed that he will be establishing two foundations worth a total of $20 million to support the arts, education and the elderly at the digital entertainment company's 25th anniversary celebrations on Monday.

As with his previous donations, the launch of the Kuo Pao Kun Foundation and Sim Foundation was a low-key affair, made known only by a few paragraphs in a commemorative booklet given out at the anniversary celebrations.

"It is hoped that the setting up of these two foundations could inspire the spirit of giving," stated the brief announcement.

Mr Sim declined to comment on the foundations — set up with the donation of one million Creative shares to each, worth some $20 million in all — though details may be released at a later date.

This brings Mr Sim's total donations to charity, in cash, shares and dividends, to some $49 million since 1999.

To date, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing has given over US$1 billion ($1.54 billion) in grants and donations to charitable projects through the Li Ka Shing Foundation.

And while Asia's philanthropic acts pale in comparison to American billionaire Warren Buffett's US$37-billion donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this year, Mr Sim's act of giving is still rare in a society where the number of millionaires is fast outstripping the millions given to charity.

According to the National Voluntary and Philanthropy Centre's 2004 charity survey, the number of philanthropic bodies has been tailing off since 2000, despite the number of millionaires in Singapore rising by 13.4 per cent to hit last year's record 55,000 individuals of high net-worth — defined as those with over US$1 million in liquid assets.

The last local entrepreneur reported to have set up a foundation earlier this year was Dr Loo Choon Yong, executive chairman of the Raffles Medical Group, who donated 10 million shares — worth $8.9 million — of the publicly-listed medical group to its humanitarian arm, the Asian Medical Foundation.

While Mr Sim would not comment on his personal reasons for giving, Mr Kuo Pao Kun was a long-time personal friend and mentor to him. The foundation in honour of the late dramatist will nurture the performing arts here.

The Sim Foundation will focus on education, the arts and the aged. It will also incorporate the Creative Education and Arts Foundation which Mr Sim founded in 2001 with 1.3 million shares, worth some $20 million based on its market value then.

Without a passion for the creative arts and music, there would be no Sound Blaster soundcard, and hence, no Creative Technology as it stands today, said Mr Sim during a speech on Monday night.

Not forgetting that charity starts at home, Mr Sim gave over $85,000 to staff via a lucky draw and a "Your Dreams Come True" game held during the night-long anniversary celebrations. In addition, some $250,000 was raised for charity over Creative's three-day celebration sale lucky draw which ended on Monday.

Creative reinstallation

SOME ten years after a leadership split in Creative Technology, the three original founders of the company have joined hands again to fight the MP3 war.

At the 25th anniversary celebrations on Monday night, Creative Technology chairman and chief executive Sim Wong Hoo announced that Mr Chay Kwong Soon and Mr Ng Kai Wa — buddies from his Ngee Ann Polytechnic days — have returned to help him.

Mr Chay, who left his post as Creative's chief operating officer and president in 1996, has agreed to return as an advisor to Mr Sim.

Said Mr Chay: "I hope to help set the stage for Creative to harvest its technologies."

Mr Ng, chairman and chief executive officer of InnoMedia — a supplier of broadband Internet protocol technology solutions — rejoined Creative as a board member "a few months ago" after leaving his chief technology officer post in 1995.

Both co-founders were said to have left on amicable terms due to different views on growth strategies.

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