With Ho Ching stepping down as chairman of Temasek International from 1 April, there are those who speculate that the time might come for her to finally relinquish her all-powerful position as CEO of parent company Temasek Holdings, a role she has held for 15 years.
Such conjecture may be premature. It could yet be another red herring.
A decade ago, Temasek kicked off its succession planning. With much fanfare, Charles “Chip” Goodyear was brought in to replace Ho Ching back in 2009, but he abruptly left after only several months as CEO-designate.
All we got was a terse statement from Temasek chairman S Dhanabalan: “It is with much regret that both Chip and the Board have accepted that it is best not to proceed with the leadership transition. We wish Chip all the best in his future endeavours and are happy that Ho Ching has agreed to continue as Executive Director and CEO.”
For 10 years now, despite announcing that it would carry out a global search, the Board of Temasek has been unable to find a replacement for Ho Ching. The Board is presumably still “happy” that Ho Ching “has agreed” to continue as CEO.CEOs of big corporations come and go as part of leadership renewal. But not Ho Ching, who remains steadfast as top dog at Temasek after 15 years.
In the time she has been heading Temasek, SMRT has seen three CEOs. The head honchos of organisations like GIC (formerly Government of Singapore Investment Corporation) and Singapore Airlines have come and gone, along with so many more.
Ho Ching could be considered even more indispensable than ministers.
Last year, three ministers retired from the cabinet to make way for new blood. They are all younger than 66-year-old Ho Ching – Lim Hng Kiang, age 64, Lim Swee Say, 63, and Yaacob Ibrahim, 62.As CEO of Temasek, Ho Ching has been ranked Singapore’s most powerful woman by Forbes for 15 years running. As the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, she wields enormous influence.
Turning 66 this week (27 March), Ho Ching has every reason to celebrate her status as the country’s indispensable and irreplaceable one.