After 28 years as the boss of traditional Chinese medicine giant Eu Yan Sang International, Richard Eu is stepping down.
On October 1, the month he has his 70th birthday, he will hand the reins to new hire Aaron Boey, marking the first time that leadership of the 138-year-old institution will be placed in outside hands.
“It’s very important, and it’s about time,” says Eu, nothing the company has been discussing the succession issue for at least 10 years. “I’m glad it’s happened now. I don’t want to drop dead on the job… I want to enjoy some other stuff.”
Boey joined Eu Yan Sang in March to fill in as COO following the incumbent leaving. “It was meant to be on a term basis, for six months or one year,” says Eu. “At the same time, we were going through a CEO search. After he’d been here for one to two months, we decided he was good CEO material and decided to put his hat in the pool, and everyone liked him.”
Boey, 56, has worked for consumer products firms such as Asia Pacific Breweries and Philips Consumer Electronics. Most recently, he was executive VP and president of Asia-Pacific for Levi Strauss.
Meanwhile, Eu is not retiring but will replace his cousin Robert Eu as non-executive chairman of the board. Robert Eu will remain as a director.
“Because Aaron is new, I will help him by providing him with a corporate memory, but I don’t want to have such a large shadow that it makes life difficult for him,” says Richard Eu.
The Eu family has a 23.8 per cent stake in Eu Yan Sang after launching a bid, alongside new partners Tower Capital and a unit of Temasek Holdings, to privatise the company in May last year.
Succession planning was part of the deal terms with the new shareholders, says Eu, a fourth-generation family member. His grandfather was tycoon/philanthropist Eu Tong Sen, and Eu Yan Sang was founded by Richard Eu’s great-grandfather Eu Kong.
Richard Eu’s eldest son Richie joined the company four years ago and now heads its retail business in Hong Kong. His niece Jessica is a product category manager.