Partners in Cai Png Empire Chang Cheng Suing Each Other in Court

Drop your Netflix subscriptions—a new live-action legal drama has hit Singapore.

Partners of the cai png empire Chang Cheng Group are suing each other in court. And you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s an exciting suit to follow.

Chang Cheng Group Partners Embroiled in High Court Lawsuit

According to Shin Min Daily News, partners in Chang Cheng Group, the cai png empire with more than 27 coffee shops, recently sued each other in court.

But to understand why, you’ll first have to know how the two partners started working together in the first place.

Chang Cheng Group was founded by Ricky Kok and his wife in 1994. As the business started to develop, Mr. Kok decided to rope Ye Yongsheng (hanyu pinyin) into the company in late 1998.

Before this, Mr. Ye was a chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

As Chang Cheng Group continued growing, this was the arrangement: funds would come from previous investments made by Mr. Kok and his wife, while Mr. Ye would contribute his professional knowledge.

Eventually, in 2001, Mr. Kok allocated 25% of Chang Cheng Group’s shares to Mr. Ye out of goodwill.

However, problems between Mr. Kok and Mr. Ye started to surface nine years later.

According to Mr. Kok, since 2010, Mr. Ye became increasingly disinterested in running the business—spending less than two hours a day working on the administrative matters he was in charge of.

Essentially, come to work and zuo bo. However, this is far from Mr. Kok’s only bone to pick with his partner.

Partner Allegedly Invested in a Competitor

According to Mr. Kok, he discovered that Mr. Ye started secretly investing in a competitor’s business in 2009—that of Mr. Kok’s brother.

Mr. Kok alleged that Mr. Ye was investing in at least 80 competing companies and that Mr. Ye’s wife was also listed as a trustee shareholder and director of the competing business owned by Mr. Kok’s brother.

While Mr. Kok attempted to clarify matters with Mr. Ye, his efforts were to no avail—Mr. Ye did not respond to Mr. Kok.

Essentially, Mr. Kok was “ghosted” by his fellow partner lah. 

Only in 2016, when Mr. Kok confronted Mr. Ye through an acquaintance, did Mr. Ye finally admit to investing in competing businesses.

At this juncture, the relationship between the partners soured, and Mr. Ye agreed to withdraw from Chang Cheng Group unconditionally.

Agreements Made Between the Partners

Pursuant to Mr. Ye’s agreement to withdraw from Chang Cheng Group, the partners drew up three agreements.

Spoiler alert: Mr. Ye eventually denied agreeing to two of these agreements.

The first agreement was reached in October 2018, wherein Mr. Ye would relinquish all shares he held in Chang Cheng Group and resign from all his positions.

The second agreement came two years later and involved the partners’ joint real estate business.

The last agreement was reached in November 2020, which involved Mr. Kok buying the rights to seven properties from Mr. Ye. Following this agreement, both parties were to submit valuations for the relevant properties a month later and to take the average valuation should there be any differences in valuation.

However, this was when the problem arose. According to Mr. Kok, when the agreements were being put into writing, Mr. Ye suddenly denied having agreed to the first and third agreements.

Further, in relation to the first agreement, Mr. Ye claimed that he should have received compensation for relinquishing his shares in Chang Cheng Group.

Suffice it to say, Mr. Kok had quite a “shag bro” moment and decided to take the Singaporean route out of such problems: “Sue until your pants drop.”

Mr. Kok filed a lawsuit against Mr. Ye in the High Court, claiming that the first and third agreements were binding and that Mr. Ye had breached the third agreement.

Chang Cheng Group Partners Allegedly Allowed to Invest in Competing Businesses

But what’s the other side of the story?

Let’s start with the allegations that Mr. Ye had secretly invested in competing companies.

Mr. Ye denies any affiliation with competing businesses, particularly that of Mr. Kok’s brother.

As it turns out, Mr. Kok’s brother was once part of the Chang Cheng Group. Afterwards, when Mr. Kok’s brother left Chang Cheng Group to start his own coffee shop business, Mr. Ye borrowed money to Mr. Kok’s brother to rent a coffee shop.

As a gesture of appreciation, Mr. Kok’s brother then allocated some shares to Mr. Ye and Mr. Kok, which were later transferred to Mr Ye’s wife and Mr Kok’s sister.

Subsequently, Mr. Kok’s brother continued allocating shares to Mr. Ye’s wife to express his gratitude to Mr. Ye.

Walao. Messy sia. Messier than a plate of cai png

Further, Mr. Ye claims that the Chang Cheng Group partners agreed that either party had the right to dabble in businesses outside of Chang Cheng Group. In any event, even Mr. Kok himself had invested in other coffee shops and companies unrelated to Chang Cheng Group.

Partner Claims that Chang Cheng Group Owner Misled Him

Next, let’s look at what Mr. Ye had to say about the three alleged agreements between the partners.

In relation to the first agreement, Mr. Ye claimed that Mr. Kok initially agreed to compensate him for relinquishing his shares. Mr. Kok only changed his mind about the compensation later on.

Mr. Ye thus claims that he was misled into relinquishing his shares.

In relation to the third agreement, Mr. Ye shared that there isn’t even an agreement reached yet, given that negotiations were still ongoing.

So, what’s your take on the dispute between the two partners? Do you think Mr. Kok or Mr. Ye is right?