Sports Hub CEO quits

Mr Manu Sawhney (left) has been described as aggressive and overbearing by some past and present SHPL employees, but others say he is assertive but fair. Chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik (above) will now be acting CEO.
Mr Manu Sawhney (above) has been described as aggressive and overbearing by some past and present SHPL employees, but others say he is assertive but fair. Chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik will now be acting CEO.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Mr Manu Sawhney (left) has been described as aggressive and overbearing by some past and present SHPL employees, but others say he is assertive but fair. Chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik (above) will now be acting CEO.
Mr Manu Sawhney has been described as aggressive and overbearing by some past and present SHPL employees, but others say he is assertive but fair. Chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik (above) will now be acting CEO.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Board says claims in poison pen letter do not warrant further investigation

Mr Manu Sawhney, chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Hub, resigned yesterday, a week after an anonymous complaint about him was sent to the consortium that runs the $1.33 billion facility.

The Straits Times reported on Wednesday that Mr Sawhney was negotiating his severance package with the consortium, Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL).

SHPL board chairman Bryn Jones thanked Mr Sawhney, 50, for his contributions, and said that chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik will be acting CEO.

SHPL also sought to distance Mr Sawhney's resignation from the complaint, though he had taken a leave of absence after it was filed. After an investigation, the board found that the claims warranted no further action, it said.

Instead, the SHPL statement said Mr Sawhney - a Singapore citizen who took over from Frenchman Philippe Collin-Delavaud in October 2015 - resigned as he felt it was time "for a new CEO to take the Singapore Sports Hub to its next level".

In a separate statement, Mr Sawhney, who also sits on the board of English Premier League giants Manchester United, said: "The allegations in the poison pen letter are false and mischievous. I am glad the board has concluded its investigation and decided that no action is warranted. With that conclusion, I feel able to move on."

He thanked his team and said he was proud of the transformation in the Sports Hub during his tenure.

  • Timeline of events

  • •October 2015: Mr Manu Sawhney is appointed chief executive of Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL), taking over from Frenchman Philippe Collin-Delavaud.

    •December 2015: The Straits Times reports that the organisers of the National Day Parade and SHPL have yet to agree on a deal to rent the National Stadium, three months before the first rehearsals. That same month, two members of senior management, Global Spectrum Pico (GSP) managing director Mark Collins and GSP director of contracts and compliance Daphne Letournel step down.

    •January 2016: SHPL inks its first cost-sharing partnership with the Singapore Rugby Union, where both parties will jointly promote the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

    •February 2016: Reports that SHPL intends to terminate its venue operation contract with GSP surface. Both issue joint statements to reaffirm the partnership.

    •September 2016: More than 1,500 fans of Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou sign a petition asking for a refund after sound issues plague his Sept 3 concert.

    •October 2016: The National Stadium's new Eclipse Stabilised Turf wins praise for its smooth surface.

    •December 2016: The Straits Times reports that several suite owners are unlikely to renew their contracts with the Sports Hub after a threadbare 2016 events calendar.

    •May 2017: Mr Sawhney resigns from his post, despite being cleared of wrongdoing after an anonymous letter of complaint was sent.

When The Straits Times asked SHPL majority shareholder Infrared Capital Partners why there was a need to investigate an anonymous poison pen letter, a spokes- man said that it was "a matter of good governance".

Those who have read the letter said it gave details of Mr Sawhney's alleged treatment of staff and his business decisions.

Past and present SHPL employees painted differing images of Mr Sawhney. Some said he was aggressive and overbearing, but others described him as assertive but fair.

Mr Sawhney's tenure coincided with the departures of more than 20 Sports Hub staff, including Global Spectrum Pico's (GSP) managing director Mark Collins and its director of contracts and compliance Daphne Letournel. GSP is another one of SHPL's four equity partners.

In a note sent to partners, Mr Oon wrote: "I ask that we remain committed to pursuing operational excellence, developing a vibrant repertoire of events and delivering great experiences for our patrons as One Team Sports Hub."

The leadership change comes just before a busy period for the Sports Hub. The National Stadium will host two-time Fifa World Cup winners Argentina and an international rugby Test between Scotland and Italy next month.

In July, it will welcome European football giants Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan for the International Champions Cup tournament.

The packed schedule is an improvement on last year's threadbare calendar, when a friendly game between Singapore and Malaysia was the main football highlight.

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping, who has worked with the Sports Hub on various events, including the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens, is confident Mr Sawhney's departure will not affect proceedings. He said: "There will be some meetings about this, but I don't think there will be any impact."

OCBC Bank head of group corporate communications Koh Ching Ching said: "As the Premier Founding Partner, we will continue to work closely with the Singapore Sports Hub to bring value to the community through OCBC Cycle, OCBC Community Day and other activities with the right appeal."

Sport Singapore, the government agency partnering SHPL on Sports Hub, said it will work to ensure operations are not compromised.

But it added: "SHPL also needs to put in more effort to enhance the range of offerings for sport and entertainment at the Sports Hub. They have given us their assurance that they will do so."

The Sports Hub is a public-private partnership between the Government and a consortium of four firms comprising Infrared Capital Partners, Dragages Singapore, Global Spectrum and Cushman & Wakefield Facilities & Engineering.

The consortium designed, built and currently operates the facility, in return for an annual payment from the Government, via Sport Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'Sports Hub CEO quits'. Print Edition | Subscribe