As a businessman, Hougang United chairman Bill Ng made a name for himself by turning companies mired in tough situations into profitable ventures.
The 57-year-old founded private equity firm Financial Frontiers and is a director of six companies.
He has brought his financial acumen to bear on Hougang United and Tiong Bahru Football Club as well, turning their fortunes around after he took over as chairman.
And he has set his sights on transforming local football, leading a nine-man team to contest the inaugural Football Association of Singapore (FAS) election on April 29.
Last Thursday, Mr Ng boldly stated that he intends to list the ailing local league on the Singapore stock exchange in five years.
But he has since become embroiled in a growing storm that stemmed from a $500,000 donation from Tiong Bahru FC, which reported a gross income of $36.8 million for the financial year that ended in March last year. The amount eclipsed the FAS’ budget of $35.8 million for the same period.
When asked about Tiong Bahru’s finances, Mr Ng had said: “Tiong Bahru FC would like to offer its accounting records for inspection by SportSG or any government agency if necessary.”
By the time he made those comments, SportSG had already filed a police report over suspected misuse of Tiong Bahru FC’s funds.
Yesterday, the Commercial Affairs Department also raided the clubhouses of Hougang United and Tiong Bahru, and the FAS office.
The controversy has raised questions over the man running for the top post in the FAS – who exactly is Bill Ng?
Outside of the football scene, the former stock broker built up his wealth by investing in difficult projects through his firm and making them profitable.
He helped to list NagaCorp, a Phnom Penh-based company that operates a casino in the Cambodian capital, on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2006.
That was one of his most challenging projects, Mr Ng told MillionaireAsia magazine, as he recounted the five attempts his team made to list the company – first in Malaysia, then twice in Singapore, before finally succeeding on its second attempt in Hong Kong.
In another instance, Mr Ng turned a former gold exploration company in Hong Kong into a gold producer, and got it listed here in 2011.
“Our returns are handsome. My style involves taking many years to build one project, I’m basically hands-on,” he said.
That Midas touch brought him into local football in 2004, when Mr Ng said the FAS roped him in to help Tiong Bahru FC. He helped restructure its clubhouse operations, and made it profitable in four years.
In 2008, he claimed the FAS asked him to help another ailing club, Sengkang Punggol, now named Hougang United.
He then shot to prominence in 2012, when he led a five-man consortium to place a $40 million bid for Scottish football club Glasgow Rangers, which went bankrupt. His bid was unsuccessful.
Mr Ng has also brought a dash of flamboyance to Hougang United, holding its season launch in February at the swanky Lantern Rooftop Bar, atop The Fullerton Bay Hotel.
Players and staff arrived in stylish black suits, led by Mr Ng in a striking blue jacket.
But business and football aside, Mr Ng is also known as man with a heart. In 2014, The New Paper reported how the club stood by one of its coaches as he fought his way back to health from Stage 4 colon cancer. The coach, former defender Amin Nasir, told TNP he was grateful to Mr Ng’s “human touch in keeping him on the payroll” even though he was sick.
Mr Ng was quoted then as saying: “How could we simply discard someone when he is going through the darkest part of his life?”
The next year, Hougang United launched a $1 million scholarship programme for budding footballers. By that time, the club already had a healthy bank balance as a result of its successful jackpot operation.
The Cheetahs are the only S-League club that operates without the $800,000 annual subsidy from the Tote Board. In 2014, the club registered a profit in excess of $2 million.
Mr Ng has drawn criticism from some members in the football fratenity, who say his leadership of the clubs is directed at making money. Responding in a TNP report last year, Mr Ng said: “Making money is not a dirty word because that is how we are able to sustain ourselves.”
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