PropNex-DWG merger: Property veterans seal deal using 'no numbers approach'

PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor and Dennis Wee Group founder and chairman Dennis Wee at the press conference yesterday. Mr Wee said the group has been fielding acquisition offers for three years, but Mr Ismail struck him as the "most sin
PropNex Realty chief executive Ismail Gafoor and Dennis Wee Group founder and chairman Dennis Wee at the press conference yesterday. Mr Wee said the group has been fielding acquisition offers for three years, but Mr Ismail struck him as the "most sincere" of the interested parties.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

It is a merger of two of Singapore's most well-known property players, but no money has changed hands and equity terms have not even been thrashed out.

While this "no numbers approach" is unusual, to say the least, it is how two of Singapore's most seasoned property veterans like to do business.

Mr Denka Wee, representing his father and his namesake company Dennis Wee Group, said that while the firm had spoken to several other agencies, PropNex Realty won its trust as it had been very focused on "value-add".

"PropNex touched our hearts by saying that it will take care of our agents," he said during a briefing yesterday.

Mr Wee added that his father was not looking to "sell" his agents, adding that the elder Mr Wee had previously walked away from an eight-figure offer for the company.

Dennis Wee Group has been fielding acquisition offers for three years, said founder and chairman Dennis Wee, and it even received one - when a suitor offered to "double whatever PropNex was offering" - just an hour before yesterday's press conference.

 

But PropNex chief executive Ismail Gafoor struck him as the "most sincere" of the interested parties, said Mr Dennis Wee.

The two head honchos have much in common. For one thing, both built their companies from scratch.

A former army regular, Mr Ismail, 54, gave up a lucrative army pension and started PropNex, then called Nooris Consultants, in 1995.

After brokering a series of mergers, PropNex was born in 2004 and has thrived to the point where it is now about to become Singapore's biggest agency.

Mr Ismail's latest coup comes despite his saying that he is "a simple person" and "not so strategic".

The seeds of the deal were planted in March, when Dennis Wee Group approached him for a "casual talk" at a McDonald's outlet in Toa Payoh, Mr Ismail said.

"They wanted to know about our system; they did not talk about merging. The initial talk was about opportunities, system and value- adding to our people," he said, adding that the talks cooled and began again only last month.

All this culminated in three intense days of negotiation that ended last Saturday.

Mr Ismail met 20 to 30 of Dennis Wee Group's divisional leaders over three days, answering queries about opportunities and how the merged structure would operate.

He said the negotiations were "emotional", adding that he was "amazed" by the "family-like culture" of Dennis Wee Group.

Mr Ismail also came away impressed by Mr Dennis Wee and the respect he commands from his agents, saying: "He is a real estate veteran and a real gentleman."

Mr Dennis Wee, 65, is the son of renowned Peranakan chef Jolly Wee and is known to cook a mean Hokkien mee himself.

A colourful character, he once put on a Superman outfit for a property advertisement.

Known for his knack for and focus on training salespeople, Mr Dennis Wee started his company in 1993 with just 10 agents. It now fields more than 1,000.

At the briefing yesterday, he praised Mr Ismail for his sincerity and ability to win over agents from Dennis Wee Group.

He quipped: "If I wanted money, I would have gotten a lot of money three years ago. I'm doing it because it's not about money, it's about how to help them grow, and... I trust Mr Ismail as a leader of this group."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Property veterans seal deal using 'no numbers approach''. Print Edition | Subscribe