Tee Keat strengthens grip on MCA with changes at The Star

Consultant Editor, The Malaysian Insider

The end is near for Datuk Steven Tan, the man who turned The Star into a local media giant, after it was announced today that he would relinquish in six months his position as executive deputy chairman of the newspaper group.

Tan’s retirement was announced in a filing to Bursa Malaysia today, in what will be seen as a move by MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat to strengthen his grip on the party, which controls The Star.

However, the retirement of Tan, who has been a steady hand at the helm of The Star since the 1980s and who took the company from an also-ran to become Malaysia’s most profitable newspaper, could spook the stock market and fund managers.

The move is seen as an attempt by Ong, who was voted in as MCA president last October, to replace – in the party and its assets – those who are seen as close to former president Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik.

According to the company’s announcement, Tan will remain a non-executive director of the public-listed company, Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad.

While no announcement was made about who his replacement would be, The Malaysian Insider understands that Datuk Clement Hii, who is chief executive officer of education group SEG International and a close friend of the party president, will be appointed to the board of the company but it is not clear if he will take over Tan’s position.

It is understood that Hii will become Ong’s point man on the board to help the MCA president direct policy in the newspaper.

Before SEG International, Hii, 49, had also worked as a journalist and was once the Chief Editor of The Borneo Post in Sarawak.

Speaking to reporters after chairing his party’s presidential council meeting, Ong declined to comment on the changes in the newspaper publisher.

Tan retired as The Star’s group managing director last June and was succeeded by Datin Linda Ngiam. It is still unclear whether Ngiam, a protege of Tan, will get to keep her job.