Windfall for Crystal Jade staff

Ex-boss gives part of money from chain's sale as bonuses to past and present employees

Mr Ip Yiu Tung was at the Crystal Jade restaurant in VivoCity on Wednesday, handing out cheques of up to $40,000 to staff.
Mr Ip Yiu Tung was at the Crystal Jade restaurant in VivoCity on Wednesday, handing out cheques of up to $40,000 to staff.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
Mr Ip Yiu Tung sold his share of the restaurant chain in May last year.
Mr Ip Yiu Tung sold his share of the restaurant chain in May last year.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Former Crystal Jade boss Ip Yiu Tung has used part of the windfall he reaped from selling the restaurant chain to give bonuses of up to $40,000 to current and former employees.

Hong Kong-based Mr Ip, who sold his share of the company in May last year as part of an estimated US$100 million (S$140 million) buyout, is in Singapore this week visiting various Crystal Jade restaurants to hand out cheques to the employees.

Madam Ong Ah Kwee was one of those asked to gather at Crystal Jade Kitchen in VivoCity on Wednesday afternoon to collect her payout. "I was very reluctant to go as it was very far from my house," said the 61-year-old part-time waitress at Crystal Jade Kitchen in Tampines Mall.

"My friends told me that they had read reports in Hong Kong that Mr Ip will share the profits of the sale with the employees, but I didn't quite believe them. I never thought it would really happen," said Ma-dam Ong in Mandarin.

An employee since 1996, Madam Ong has mostly been a part-timer, working four hours a day. She was pleasantly surprised to get a sum roughly three times her pay, directly from Mr Ip.

Others, like supervisors and the chief chef, have been given payouts of about $20,000 to $40,000, she said. "Mr Ip must have given out a lot of money. He's such a generous man to give us a share after selling the company."

Former employees have also not been forgotten.

Madam Annie Chiew, 49, had been a cashier at Crystal Jade for 15 years until her resignation last month. She received about two months' worth of her last-drawn salary for her past contributions.

"I'm very thankful to Mr Ip. Though I didn't have a chance to talk to him, he was all smiles when he handed me the cheque and even reminded me to check if everything was correct," she said. "I'm really lucky to have had him as my boss."

About 90 per cent of the Crystal Jade Group was bought by L Capital Asia, the private equity arm of Paris-based luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, for an estimated US$100 million.

Mr Ip, a 66-year-old Hong Konger who is a Singapore permanent resident, stayed on as chief executive for a year and now remains an adviser and brand ambassador for the company, which has 120 restaurants worldwide, including 47 in Singapore, and about 4,500 full- time employees. (See correction note below)

Mr Ip joins the ranks of a generous few among businessmen who have shared profits with workers.

Last month, the head of Turkish food delivery company Yemek- sepeti gave US$27 million to 114 employees after selling the firm for US$589 million, according to CNN- Money.

In March, a United States businessman reportedly gave US$5.75 million to his 570 employees in a surprise payout after selling two of his companies.

Correction: An earlier version of the story said Crystal Jade has 20 restaurants worldwide. It has 120. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'Windfall for Crystal Jade staff'. Print Edition | Subscribe