Banyan Tree branches into succession planning

The power couple behind Banyan Tree Holdings have started preparing for succession planning.

But, say Mr Ho Kwon Ping and his wife Claire Chiang, unlike in most Asian family businesses, it is not certain that their children will necessarily take over the management reins.

"As Banyan Tree is a listed company, who the next chief executive is, is up to the board to decide, it's not something we can just decide as husband and wife though we are majority shareholders," says Mr Ho. "We may well have professional managers who are better than they are."

  • MILESTONES

  • 1952: Born in Hong Kong to Ho Rih Hwa and Li Lienfung.


    1977: Detained under Internal Security Act for writing allegedly pro-leftist articles in the Far Eastern Economic Review.


    1978: Married Claire Chiang. Both moved to Hong Kong where he worked as a journalist and she did a sociology degree at the University of Hong Kong.


    1981: Returned to Singapore after father suffered a stroke to join the family business. Wah Chang's interests spanned agri-business and infrastructure construction.


    1994: Launched Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, after converting a disused tin mine in Phuket into a resort


    2000: Angsana, a sister brand to the luxe Banyan Tree, launched.


    2005: First foray into China, in Yunnan.


    2014: Cassia, offering serviced apartments, launched.


    2015: Dhawa, offering three-star accommodation, launched.

NO RETIREMENT PLANS

For us, so long as we are healthy, can travel and love to travel, we will always be the oversight elders.

MS CLAIRE CHIANG, on the future roles for her and Mr Ho Kwon Ping in the business

But as the family that owns the majority shares, it is imperative that their offspring do "understand and love the business".

"So we are already starting by having them being involved in the business; we have family councils and family trusts so they understand the responsibilities of stewardship."

The couple, who are in their 60s, have three children. Their eldest, Ren Hua, 33, who used to head Banyan Tree's China operations, has just been moved to the family's other business - in food - in Thailand, as part of "general succession planning so that if I were to retire soon, he has to know more than just Banyan Tree, he has to know more about the rest", says Mr Ho.

Daughter Ren Yung, 29, will join her mother next year in the gallery and spa arm of Banyan Tree. Their youngest child, Ren Chun, 21, has just matriculated at the University of Cambridge, studying human, social and political sciences.

Not that the couple have any plans to retire soon.

Says Ms Chiang: "For us, so long as we are healthy, can travel and love to travel, we will always be the oversight elders."

Like a Minister Mentor, maybe?

"Yes, like a chairman mentor, a senior mentor!" says Mr Ho with a chuckle.

That said, they are relishing another role even more.They became first-time grandparents in May, to grandson Kang Peng.

"We are grandparents, that's the most exciting thing for us now," says Mr Ho.

Li Xueying

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Banyan Tree branches into succession planning'. Print Edition | Subscribe