In Malaysia, he’s a bad guy

In Malaysia, “Superman” Li Ka-shing is a bad guy, at least that’s what former Johor Corp chief executive officer Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim thinks.

Zuraimi Abdullah, Business Times

DC Comics’ “Superman” is a good guy, a great American superhero. In Hong Kong, “Superman” is Li Ka-shing, the mega-rich businessman.

In Malaysia, though, “Superman” is a bad guy, at least that’s what former Johor Corp (JCorp) chief executive officer Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim thinks.

Malaysia’s “Superman”, based on Muhammad Ali’s version, is out to destroy a certain group of companies and suck its assets for monetary gains.

This “Superman” is not singular. There are a bunch of them. They are outsiders who have seized control of the Johor state investment company and are responsible for making it incur more debts, strip some big assets and break staff spirit, he claimed.


That’s a pretty strong allegation. And coming from a respected corporate man who helmed JCorp for 28 years until his controversial departure from the corporation and all of its controlled public-listed companies in July 2010, it seems to be a shocking revelation.

It has been a week since the allegation made headlines in the newspapers and websites. JCorp appears disinterested to refute, although there was initial indication from its PR agency suggesting a counter statement was in the offing.

JCorp is arguably one of the companies that have grabbed most media and investors’ attention at the moment, thanks to its estimated RM5.24 billion offer to privatise QSR Brands Bhd and KFC Holdings Bhd.

While we ponder on Muhammad Ali versus JCorp, the main point here is the issue of outsiders and outside interference.

For countries, outside interference typically relates to other governments interfering in internal politics or the economy of another government.

In companies or divisions within a company, if the management or the board is bringing in somebody from the outside, it could mean its own employees are not talented or capable enough to handle operation or business.

Should one bring or allow outsiders to run one’s already fine business? Obviously, it will be unsettling if this happens, although it is wrong to assume that all outsiders will not take a good company to greater heights. Still, we need to ask ourselves, how much of our own affairs do we want others to manage?

It’s a different story if a company is in dire need of a new injection of talent and skills from outside.

Hence, most of us, I believe, can understand and accept the entry of AirAsia’s Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun into Malaysia Airlines, for example.

JCorp is a well-run and asset-rich company, albeit being saddled with debts of billions of ringgit. Anyone care to convince us that the Malaysian “Superman” allegation is not true?