How the Mighty Have Fallen: A Talk by Karen Lam

About 40 people gathered at The Encubator on a Saturday morning for a Coffee Chat with Karen Lam, author of the book Power Talk: Insights from Asia's Leading Entrepreneurs as well as host and series producer of Channel News Asia’s aptly named signature interview programme, Power List Asia. Here is a short look into her insightful talk.


is a refrain taken from 2 Samuel 1:19-27 as David took up a lament concerning King Saul and his son Jonathan, both slain in battle as recorded in the Bible.

The theme rings true as Karen reflects on her conversations with two billionaires (at the time when she met with them), who in a span of two to three years saw their business empires crumbling and subsequently suffered a loss of ownership, and their personal wealth petering out.

Karen highlighted the NOBLE GROUP in Hong Kong and also FORTIS HEALTHCARE and RELIGARE in India – their founders and initial rise to commercial success. The participants were indulged with her interview insights as well as some details regarding these business moguls.

She examines the chinks in their armour - some that were observed during her interviews with these tycoons - and how such flaws preceded rapid business collapse. Opaque processes in both accounting and regulatory disclosure, coupled with major acquisitions based on loans that later proved unserviceable, led to their financial failures.

When unchecked success happens, it leads to a sense of grandiose that can lead even the most successful men in the world to make decisions that can jeopardize the future of a business. This flawed “I can do no wrong” mentality and the tendency to surround oneself with yes-men when at the height of one’s powers can result in a person only doing what is right in their own eyes. This raises an important question, “Is it better to be right or to get it right?”

After fielding some questions from the audience, Karen graciously set aside some time to personally sign purchased copies of her book, Power Talk: Insights from Asia’s Leading Entrepreneurs. There was also a plaque presentation and a great time of fellowship over lunch.

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