The corporate office of investment holding company MUI Group occupies two all-white colonial mansions in Jalan Ampang, complete with a column-lined porte-cochère, small but lush gardens, a koi pond and a shaded swimming pool. We meet its relatively new CEO, Andrew Khoo, in the smaller of the two buildings, where a comfortable and well-lit meeting room is also a bit of a throwback with plush cream carpets, vintage-flavoured seating and charmingly old-fashioned wallpaper. In a corner, a wooden display cabinet proudly showcases rows of Crispy chocolate with a stack of Laura Ashley catalogues on a lower shelf — just in case we needed a reminder of some of the businesses MUI is involved in.
Indeed, the group’s portfolio can only be modestly described as vast — its core businesses are retail, hotel, food and confectionery, financial services and property development. Founded in 1960 by Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng, MUI was once one of Corporate Malaysia’s powerhouses. But as market conditions changed, so did its fortunes — a tale of gradual decline best illustrated by the dwindling popularity of some of its brands. Retail giant Metrojaya, for example, has certainly seen busier times and the Corus hotels remain in need of a service and design overhaul.