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Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund Loses New CEO

AP
Tuesday, 21 Jul 2009 | 8:27 PM ET

Singapore government investment fund Temasek said Charles W. Goodyear won't take over as chief executive because of differences in strategy, a surprising reversal that leaves the wife of the prime minister in the company's top job.

Goodyear, who had been working alongside outgoing chief executive Ho Ching since March, will leave the sovereign wealth fund next month, Temasek said in a statement Tuesday.

Temasek in February named Goodyear, a former chief executive of the world's No. 1 mining company BHP Billiton, to take over on October 1 from Ho. The wife of prime minister Lee Hsien Loong had headed Temasek since 2004 and announced her resignation days before the fund said it lost $39 billion, or 31 percent of its assets, between March and November last year.

Temasek Holdings
Temasek Holdings

In tightly controlled Singapore, the appointment of Goodyear, an American, had been seen as a sign that the government was loosening its grip and acknowledging the need for specific expertise from abroad. Now just five months later, that experiment appears to have been derailed.

"It's embarrassing for sure," said David Cohen, an economist with consultancy Action Economics in Singapore. "This isn't the way they normally operate here. Professionalism has been the rule."

Temasek said the decision to part ways was in its and Goodyear's interests.

"The Temasek Board and Mr. Goodyear have concluded and accepted that there are differences regarding certain strategic issues that could not be resolved," the fund said in a statement.

Making the move even more unusual was the long vetting process Goodyear went through before accepting the job.

Goodyear, who has a masters of business administration from the Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania, said in February he had been in talks with Temasek for the previous 15 months.

"Surprising is the word," Cohen said. "He was about to command a substantial portfolio. You wouldn't think he'd walk away from that very easily."

Temasek's investments were worth $84 billion as of Nov. 30.

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Ho, who has a master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University, said in February she would step away from the day-to-day operations of the fund.

"Chip brings capabilities that I don't have," Ho said at the time. "I don't see myself as needing to direct it (Temasek) in any way."

Singapore's Ministry of Finance is Temasek's only shareholder. The company, which is smaller than the city-state's other sovereign wealth fund, the Government of Singapore Investment Corp., owns large stakes in many of the country's biggest companies, including Singapore Telecommunications and Singapore Airlines.