Hour Glass co-founder Jannie Chan seeks stay of bankruptcy order; owes moneylender over $4m

Jannie Chan owes licensed moneylender over $4.15m

The Hour Glass co-founder Jannie Chan has been made a bankrupt for owing a licensed moneylender more than $4.15 million.

The order was handed down by the High Court against Ms Chan, who turned 74 last month, on May 27. She has indicated she will appeal to stay the bankruptcy order.

The court noted last month that it was the fifth hearing of the bankruptcy application and she had almost six months since the first one to settle the debt with SME Care.

Ms Chan, who represented herself at the hearing, had asked for a further six weeks' extension but SME Care, represented by lawyer Murali Rajaram, opposed this.

High Court Assistant Registrar Zeslene Mao was not convinced a further adjournment would enable Ms Chan to settle the debt, given that no sum has been paid since December last year. The court also noted that other parties had brought proceedings against her.

Her debt to SME Care stems from a 2012 personal guarantee she gave it in return for a $500,000 loan to her firm JASC.

Ms Chan is the controlling director and sole shareholder of JASC.

She also secured the loan with the mortgage of two properties.

When JASC defaulted, the mortgaged properties were sold but this was not enough to settle the debt, which had grown over the years to $3.69 million by September 2017, and SME Care launched legal action.

Ms Chan told the court that she had been made bankrupt before and was "fine" with the latest order.

In 2016, she owed $9 million to ANZ bank but that was annulled when the debt was settled three months later.

As a bankrupt, Ms Chan is disqualified from being a company director, trustee or personal representative, among other things. But she said this does not prevent her from continuing as adviser to The Hour Glass, the luxury watch retailer she co-built into the industry titan that it is today from 40 years ago.

She told The Straits Times yesterday that she had recently renewed her contract to continue as adviser and wants to continue to serve "until age 113. I expect to live till 118. I worked on human resource, finance and the core business, which is what made us successful".

The filing she lodged with the Insolvency Office last week listed 66 companies of which she was director or manager, including three as managing director.

She added that she had applied to stay the bankruptcy order yesterday pending the outcome of an appeal.

"The courts have been very good and very kind to me and I am very happy," Ms Chan said, adding that although her bank account has been frozen, she is content with the proposed monthly sum for her upkeep.

A Business Times report said Ms Chan is a "substantial shareholder" at The Hour Glass. The company's 2018 annual report said she had a direct stake of 0.01 per cent while her deemed interest arises from her shareholding in TYC, which owns 48.27 per cent of The Hour Glass.

TYC was set up in 1979 to hold shares in The Hour Glass and other family assets.

Ms Chan was last reported to be holding 44 per cent of TYC's voting rights, while her former husband and The Hour Glass executive chairman and co-founder Henry Tay has 46 per cent. Their three children hold the remaining 10 per cent.

Dr Tay remains the biggest individual shareholder even after transferring 25 million shares last week to his son Michael Tay, The Hour Glass' group managing director.

The group's net profit surged 41 per cent to $70.4 million in the 12 months to March 31. It proposed a final dividend of three cents a share, up from two cents last year.

Ms Chan ceased being a director at The Hour Glass in 2016.

•Additional reporting by Seow Bei Yi