Notable chiefs at the helm of NOL

Former chiefs of NOL, Mr Goh Chok Tong (left), Mr Lua Cheng Eng (centre) and Mr David Lim.
Former chiefs of NOL, Mr Goh Chok Tong (left), Mr Lua Cheng Eng (centre) and Mr David Lim.PHOTOS: ZAOBAO, NOL

GOH CHOK TONG

Managing director from 1973 to 1977


Mr Goh Chok Tong’s (above) success at NOL led then Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen to recommend him as a People’s Action Party candidate. PHOTO: ZAOBAO

When Mr Goh Chok Tong took over Neptune Orient Lines in 1973, he faced the daunting task of turning the loss-making shipping firm around. He gave himself three years to do the task and managed to pull it off within two. In 1976, NOL's profits soared.

Mr Goh first joined the company as a 28-year-old planning and projects manager in 1969, a year after NOL was set up.

His success at NOL led then Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen to recommend him as a People's Action Party candidate and, later, as Mr Hon's successor. Mr Goh became Prime Minister in 1990, succeeding Mr Lee Kuan Yew.


LUA CHENG ENG

Chief executive from 1979 to 1999


Under Mr Lua Cheng Eng’s leadership, NOL acquired American President Lines in 1997 for US$825 million – at the time, the largest deal in Singapore’s corporate history. PHOTO: NOL

Mr Lua started out as a civil servant and was tasked to lay the groundwork for establishing NOL in 1968.

Rising through the ranks, he eventually became NOL's chief executive, a post he held for 20 years.

Under Mr Lua's leadership, NOL acquired American President Lines in 1997 for US$825 million - at the time, the largest deal in Singapore's corporate history.

For his work in establishing Singapore's modern shipping industry, he was inducted into the Maritime Asian Shipping Hall of Fame in 2002.

Mr Lua died in 2010 at the age of 72.


DAVID LIM

Chief executive from 2003 to 2006


Despite not having a shipping background, Mr David Lim was such a favourite to take over at the helm of NOL that he was offered the job the same day his retirement from politics was reported in 2003. PHOTO: NOL

Despite not having a shipping background, Mr David Lim was such a favourite to take over at the helm of NOL that he was offered the job the same day his surprise retirement from politics was reported.

Mr Lim unexpectedly quit as Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts in 2003.

A President's and Colombo Plan Scholar, he rose through the rungs of Government and government-linked organisations, helping to steer Jurong Town Corporation, port operator PSA and Suzhou Industrial Park.

Mr Lim stepped down as NOL chief in a shock departure three years after he took over the helm of the company and a month after it reported a sharp drop in first-quarter profit.


RONALD WIDDOWS

Chief executive from 2008 to 2011


Mr Ron Widdows’ appointment as chief executive sparked speculation that NOL was serious about merging with German container line Hapag-Lloyd. NOL put in a bid but eventually dropped out of the race. PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Ron Widdows, who had previously been the head of NOL's container shipping unit APL, was the third change in the NOL hot seat in nine years.

Mr Widdows had been based in Singapore since 1999. He joined APL in 1980 and became its chief executive in 2003, six years after NOL acquired it. He spent more than three decades with NOL.

His appointment as chief executive sparked speculation that NOL was serious about merging with major German container line Hapag-Lloyd.

NOL put in a bid to acquire its German rival but eventually dropped out of the race.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'Notable chiefs at the helm'. Print Edition | Subscribe