The AZ that rocked 2021: independent withdrawal

SINGAPORE – Perhaps 2021 will go down in history as the year of responsibility.

Amid the deluge of stories about the virus, Singaporeans have been sidetracked by multi-chapter sagas about inside business cutoffs.

Talks about bad bosses and alleged shady deals grabbed the headlines this year, as disgruntled former employees decided enough was enough.

The one thing they all had in common? These were independent local brands once revered in their respective industries for championing local talent – and once seen as a cool and fun place to work.

Multi-brand retailer Naiise, BooksActually bookstore and Night Owl Cinematics (NOC) YouTube channel were the three biggest victims.

After announcing in April that he would wind up the company and file for bankruptcy, Naiise founder Dennis Tay was charged with accusations from suppliers and vendors of mismanagement and missing or delayed payments.

Many owners of small brands, who owed sums ranging from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, took to social media to voice their frustrations, with some alleging that the problems with Mr. Tay started as early as 2016. Naiise made a muted comeback online in early September. after being acquired for an undisclosed amount by the WestStar Group.

Later that month, BooksActually, once a beacon of the local literary community, came to light after an explosive article from digital news site Rice Media about co-founder Kenny Leck. In the article, Mr. Leck’s ex-wife, Ms. Renee Ting, and former employees alleged that he made romantic advances to young female employees.

The saga prompted many members of the literary community to distance themselves from the bookstore.

Mr Leck has said he will be stepping down from BooksActually and its publishing subsidiary Math Paper Press.

NOC’s bitter feud between co-founders and ex-spouses Sylvia Chan and Ryan Tan ended the year.

It all started with a few leaked screenshots and WhatsApp audio recordings of Ms. Chan speaking harshly about a former employee, drawing attention to a “toxic” work environment.

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