NUS played critical role in Gillman Heights en-bloc sale

NUS played critical role in Gillman Heights en-bloc sale

 

I REFER to Mr Nicholas Kong’s response on behalf of the National University of Singapore (‘NUS: No conflict of interest in property deal’, April 2). We minority owners – who have no wish to hawk our homes – of Gillman Heights in which estate NUS, by virtue of its 50 per cent ownership (303 units out of a total of 607), is the Goliath, wish to share our experience in the collective sale of Gillman Heights and, in particular, the critical role played by NUS.

 

The owners were relieved by NUS‘ reassurance at an owners’ meeting on Feb 18, 2006 that it would refrain from casting its vote unless the ‘majority’ of individual owners decided to sell. We assumed, in the case of a collective sale, majority must be at least 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, depending on the legal age of the estate, but definitely not 51 per cent.

 

Just over 32 per cent (or around 65 per cent of owners of the 304 units) chose to sell. The owners assumed that that should put paid to the collective sale. However, the sales committee left us in suspense. In June 2006, it announced that NUS had decided to join the sellers. With NUS‘ 50 per cent, the total percentage jumped to 82.7 per cent.

 

In May last year, we learnt that Hotel Properties Ltd and two private funds had taken up stakes in the buyer of Gillman Heights, Ankerite, a subsidiary of CapitaLand. CapitaLand would retain a 50 per cent ownership of Ankerite. However, owners of the two funds were not identified.

 

Only during the High Court appeal in March this year was it revealed that NUS owns one of the private funds. It has a 16 per cent stake in Ankerite. The Strata Titles Board did not have this material information during its hearing of objections in September and October last year and before it issued its ruling in December. Thus, it could not be aware of NUS‘ direct financial interest in Ankerite at earlier mediation sessions held in June and July last year.

 

Mr Kong asserts: ‘The financial interests of the university are aligned with those of the Gillman Heights owners seeking the best sale price for their units.’ In 2006, after the individual owners had made their choice and before the June announcement that NUS would sell, much was going on while the owners were kept in the dark. It belatedly come to light that the delays had much to do with NUS‘ ‘suggestions’ that the reserve price be slashed by a hefty 20 per cent (a letter to this effect, dated May 16, 2006, was sent by NUS to the chairman of the Gillman Heights sales committee). Was that NUS‘ idea of ‘aligning’ its financial interests with those of the owners?

 

Lam Seng Ming

and three other owners

 

Source:Straits Times

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