I received a call yesterday afternoon for an invite to a casual Christmas lunch hosted by SG Changi Pte Ltd’s executive chairman Mr Fuminori Murahashi. He is one of the four initial directors of the company and is the remaining one left today after a whole string of incidents occurred over the last 18 months. Of course I accepted the invite – thank goodness the timing was perfect, as I only returned from my last trip of the year yesterday afternoon!
Coming into the room with a mask, Mr Murahashi is in Singapore just for three days and insisted on hosting lunch for selected members of the media – who have been following and writing on the Changi Motorsports Hub saga – despite being unwell. [Note: This is not an official media briefing but just an appreciation lunch.]
(L-R) Mr Ryuji Dori, Director, SG Changi; Mr Andrew Ujiie, Director, People Innovations, SG Changi; Mr Fuminori Murahashi, Executive Chairman, SG Changi and Mr Moto Sakuma, Director, SG Changi
Over lunch, Mr Murahashi shared his thoughts through the help of interpreters:
“Thank you for coming today – I wanted to host this Christmas luncheon to thank you for the support in following the CMH project closely and reporting about it actively.
I participated in this project because I have a dream to build a motorsports hub in Asia, especially in Singapore. This is my dream.
Before I decided to take part in this project, I spoke with people in Korea and China and I’ve been working in motorsports in Japan, hence am familiar with the industry. Why I decided to take part in this project? Singapore is a fair and transparent country and that’s why I want to build CMH in Singapore.
My intention is very clear – I want to build a motorsports hub in Singapore. Currently, Singapore has F1 but that is not something that can be easily participated in. With CMH, I can develop a platform for children and young drivers to learn about motorsports and enjoy it from karting to the upper levels of racing. It is part of my dream to educate children in motorsports that can help them in their spiritual and mental growth as well.
Other than SG Changi, I own and operate racing teams in Formula Nippon and Super GT. These are top racing categories in Japan and one of the plans for CMH was to have an academy that would train these youngsters to reach such levels. It is important to give them the right education – both on-track and also off the track with their attitude and mindset.
Another plan for CMH was to produce racing series from Singapore to the other Asian countries. People from the region can come to Singapore and enjoy motorsports.
I hope this project will continue – that is, I hope Singapore will still get its motorsports hub. It is my personal dream and my passion to build a motorsports hub for Asia in Singapore. In my personal capacity, I would still like to be involved and I want to continue contributing to motorsports in Singapore in whatever way I can – for example, partnering up with another company for the re-tender of CMH, if there is a re-tender.
Many things happened this year, beyond my understanding. If the contract is really terminated, I will still continue to pursue my dream and passion of building this motorsports hub for Asia. My first choice is to have it in Singapore and I will never give up, never give up. Singapore is the best place in Asia to have a racing circuit.
Many troubles have happened and I just try to deal with the situation as these unexpected things happen. Singapore is a clean country, with a fair and transparent system. It is my desire to see this project completed and my goal is to support it as much as I can.
The most important thing here is to build a motorsports hub in Singapore. I am disappointed that the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) decided to terminate the contract. Given more time, we can achieve the goal. It is regretful that the people in Singapore may not get a track.
From the business point, it is true that it is tough to make money and S$380 million for a track here can be considered expensive, depending on what you compare it to. Then again, Singapore deserves a world-class hub.
Clearly, we would like to see a re-tender for the CMH project. Yes, I’ve paid up a total of over S$55 million for the CMH project and I’m still not sure if I will be losing any of it – it depends on the resulting discussion that we will have with the SSC. As a human being, it is only natural that I want to get the money back, but that’s not the primary issue – in my heart, I really want to see the motorsports hub materialise in Singapore. We just need more time.”
When SG Changi was formed, Mr Murahashi was one of the four directors – the other three being fellow Japanese Genji Hashimoto and Singaporeans Eddie Koh and Thia Yoke Kian. Given his background, Mr Murahashi’s responsibility was the construction and he did not have the authority for any final say.
In fact, he revealed that the contract between SG Changi and SSC was not signed by him, but by the other directors, and he only saw the PDA four months after it was signed. The other three directors were in charge of funding, planning and liaising with the SSC.
Although he did not see the contract that was signed with the SSC, he still willingly took out S$3 million to be part of SG Changi. It was his faith and trust, and his passion to pursue his dream that led him. He was only given 10 per cent of the company shares initially, something which he claimed he was not aware of when he invested into the company.
After SG Changi won the tender on 26 March 2010, they had to put down 5 per cent of the land price of S$36 million within a week and this was paid by Mr Murahashi too. In all, he has coughed out a total of over S$55 million for the CMH project and at present, he owns 100 per cent shares of the company.
How did the other three directors leave the picture?
Apparently, Mr Hashimoto was asked to be removed from the company, for reasons that Mr Murahashi is unclear of. Then, Mr Koh left after a mutual discussion and Mr Thia was ousted only after a lawsuit was filed against him and the court ruled him to pay up or return his shares to the company.
The Singapore Sports Council (SSC) made an official announcement last Monday about terminating the contract with SG Changi to build CMH as they did not meet the requirements to have the track ready by this year. Since then, SG Changi has only been in correspondence with them through phone calls and emails and a date for a meeting to discuss the terms of termination has not been set. The SSC did say however, that they aim to resolve this before the end of the year – which is next week.
*Look out for my official report in tomorrow’s copy of My Paper!