Gillman Heights: blamed for doing nothing

Minority owners say NUS should not follow majority in en bloc sale

IT HAS remained silent — and passive — in the protracted saga over the proposed sale of Gillman Heights (picture) to developer CapitaLand for $528 million.

But now, the National University of Singapore (NUS) finds fingers pointing at it after the Strata Titles Board (STB) approved the deal on Friday.

The biggest faction opposed to the deal, comprising 53 of the 76 minority owners, told Today they would appeal against the STB’s decision, and chief among their grouses is the NUS’ role in the en bloc process.

The university owns almost half of the estate’s 608 units, which it rents out to its academic staff.

Said one minority owner: “We are very unhappy and very disappointed with the result. NUS was pressurised by the majority owners to agree to the en bloc sale.”

In its grounds of decision, the STB said that it was “very mindful” that the NUS was the single majority owner.

Throughout the sale, the NUS stuck to its original position that it would not take part in the proceedings other than agreeing to abide by the majority decision of the remaining owners, the STB noted. It also ruled that the majority owners had “acted properly” in dealing with the NUS.

However, even after the ruling, some of the minority owners insisted that the NUS should not have followed the decision to sell, based on a simple majority. Instead, it should only do so when at least 80 per cent of the remaining owners agreed to the sale, they argued.

Today understands that the NUS signed the Collective Sale Agreement in June last year, after some 70 per cent of the remaining owners did so.

The university could not be reached for comment at press time.

But Lee & Lee senior partner Quek Mong Hua, who represented the majority owners, said: “There’s no reason why NUS should not support the en bloc sale when a big majority of the other owners want the deal.”

The STB also had strong words for one of the valuation reports — prepared by a former chief valuer for Overseas Union Bank, Mr Yick Keng Hang — put up by the minority owners. The report revised the value of Gillman Heights from $580 million to $660 million within seven months.

The board, which rejected Mr Yick’s evidence, said in its ruling: “Yick had shown himself to be given to hyperbole. A review of his evidence would show that he was shifty and self-serving whenever it suited him.”

Launched in February last year, the en bloc sale process — which eventually garnered 86.7-per-cent consent — has been dogged by several controversies, including a dispute over the level of consent needed for the sale to go through.

Barring any appeal, the sale committee has three months to complete the deal.

Sale committee chairman Robert Wiener was “relieved” at the decision.

But he added: “Obviously, we would be happier if we could get our money earlier, what with property prices going through the roof.”

Source : Today Weekend – 22 Dec 2007

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