March 27, 2007

Knight Frank chairman dies in his sleep

By Fiona Chan

PATIENT BOSS: Mr Cheong, 84, is remembered as a wise and patient boss.

A HIGH-ACHIEVING pioneer of Singapore's property industry, Mr Cheong Thiam Siew, died in his sleep on Saturday.

Mr Cheong, 84, was being treated at Mount Elizabeth Hospital for leukaemia.

The industry veteran, who leaves behind two daughters and two grandsons, was the son of the founder of Knight Frank Singapore.

He later served as chairman of the real estate firm but also made a mark as a fine sportsman.

Mr Cheong helmed Knight Frank for almost 60 years, taking over the consultancy - then known as Cheong Hock Chye and Company, named after his father - in 1949.

Under Mr Cheong's leadership, the firm become one of Singapore's top consultancies and merged with Britain's Knight Frank in 1983.

Mr Cheong was singled out in 2003 by then-senior minister Lee Kuan Yew as a shining example of someone determined to stay productive in his old age.

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said Mr Cheong, although semi-retired since 2000, came into the office whenever he could.

And Knight Frank staff, who remember him as a wise and patient boss, said his mind was still very alert despite his age.

He was also an avid sportsman, representing Singapore in both golf and cricket. Not only was he president of the Singapore Island Country Club, but also club captain and champion - a hat-trick no one else has repeated.

He was also known in industry circles for his down-to-earth manner and willingness to bring his skills to bear on all strata of society. Apart from being a property consultant to the rich - in his time, he called almost every member of the Cabinet a friend - he also acted for many poor people.

'When the Government was acquiring large tracts of land for general development in the 1960s and 1970s for HDB and JTC, he represented many of the aggrieved land owners in claiming compensation,' said Mr Tan. 'He was extremely friendly and had no airs.'

Mr Cheong's wake will continue at the Regency Room in Singapore Casket in Lavender Street tonight. The funeral service will be held tomorrow at Wesley Methodist Church.