Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association and Another

CourtCourt of Three Judges (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date15 September 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGCA 50
Citation[2000] SGCA 50
Date15 September 2000
Plaintiff CounselK Shanmugam SC and Ang Cheng Hock (instructed) and Gooi Chi Duan (Donaldson & Burkinshaw)
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 211 of 1999
Defendant CounselGopinath Pillai and Siva Sothi (Colin Ng & Partners)
Publication Date19 September 2003
SubjectWhether partnership existed between company and exhibition organizer,Contract,Whether company an agent of association,Exhibition organiser organising competing exhibition,Whether mismanagement constitutes repudiatory breach,Whether exhibition organiser owes fiduciary duty to company,Company in contract with exhibition organiser,Partners inter se,Exhibition organiser mismanaging exhibition,Partnership,Repudiatory breach,Whether both one and the same party,"Necessity",Parties,Whether such term to be implied,Contractual terms,Association wholly owning and managing company,Whether mismanagement sufficient to justify termination by company,No express non-competition clause,Non-competition clauses,Privity of contract,Implied terms,Breach

(delivering the judgment of the court): Background

The appellants were, until 1 June 1995, known as Expoconsult Pte Ltd and, at all material times, were carrying on the business as a professional exhibition organiser and show manager. The first respondent (the `Association`) is an association registered under the Societies Act and, at all material times, owned the rights to the exhibition or show known as `Industrial Automation`. The second respondent (`SIAA`) is wholly owned and managed by the Association.

By an agreement dated 21 December 1993 (the `management agreement`), SIAA appointed the appellants to manage and organise the Industrial Automation exhibitions (`IA exhibitions`) biennially in 1995, 1997 and 1999. Under the agreement, the appellants, as the show manager, were responsible for the marketing and sales of exhibition space, logistical support as well as for the preparation and maintenance of necessary accounts. Profits were to be divided between them in the proportion of 40% to the appellants and 60% to SIAA, while losses were to be shared equally. It was agreed that a sum of $289,500 was to be deducted from the revenue of each IA exhibition as the `agreed costs` to be paid to the appellants before any division of the net profits. The management agreement was to continue for a minimum of three exhibitions with the first exhibition to take place in 1995, and thereafter could be terminated by either party upon giving to the other 12 months` prior written notice `to take effect at the closing of the presentation of the show for that particular year`.

The first exhibition, IA 95 exhibition, was held in October 1995 and was a resounding success: 4400 sq m of the exhibition space was sold and a profit of $442,200 was generated. The second one, IA 97 exhibition, was held in October 1997 and did not fare so well in comparison. 18% less exhibition space was sold and profit was down by 67%. From September 1997 or thereabouts, there were some negotiations between the appellants and the Association over the possibility of the appellants purchasing the rights of the IA exhibitions from the Association. However, the negotiations fell through. In late December 1997, the executive director of SIAA, Stephen Teng (`Teng`), informed the appellants that the Association would be considering offers from other interested exhibition companies.

At about this time, the accounts for the IA 97 exhibition were finalised and the Association expressed displeasure over the appellants` performance in a letter dated 30 December 1997. The Association attributed the dismal results mainly to the fact that the appellants were slow in replacing the original sales team who organised the IA 95 exhibition, namely, the general manager, Richard Tan, and the project manager, Annie Wong, who left the employ of the appellants in April and March 1996 respectively and later joined another exhibition organiser, Messe Dusseldorf GmbH (`Messe Dusseldorf`). The Association alleged that as a result of the appellants` delay, there was a loss of seven months` sales effort.

In January 1998, Teng allegedly gave instructions to the appellants` sales team for the IA 99 exhibition to stop contracting sales pending the decision of the new owner as to the date on which the IA 99 exhibition was to be held. This was denied by Teng in his letter dated 24 January 1998. He explained that he needed time to examine and review the space contracts for the exhibitors or participants. He also expressed his unhappiness over the fact that in respect of the IA 97 show, there were many instances of cancellation or reduction of exhibition space that had been booked without any penalty having been imposed, even though such cancellations or reductions took place on a date close to the exhibition. Teng continued to express SIAA`s displeasure over the performance of the IA 97 exhibition, describing it as `disastrous` and `shocking`. On 6 February 1998, Teng informed the appellants that the space contracts would not be finalised until the Association`s council meeting on 27 February 1998 and that in the meanwhile the appellants` team should proceed to promote the IA 99 exhibition and generate more sales especially sales for national pavilions which were missing in the IA 97 exhibition. The appellants replied saying that they would do their best but highlighted that they would face difficulties in marketing without the brochures for the IA 99 exhibition which had not, as yet, been approved. The appellants also reminded Teng repeatedly to approve the space contracts in order that they could confirm the reservations.

On 16 February 1998, the appellants were informed by Messe Dusseldorf that the latter had acquired the rights of the Association in the IA exhibitions. The appellants wrote to Teng seeking clarification on SIAA`s stand or intention with regard to the management agreement as well as expressly reserving their rights under the agreement and otherwise against the Association or SIAA. In response, Teng confirmed that Messe Dusseldorf had indeed acquired the IA exhibitions and that a meeting would be arranged with the appellants to discuss the management agreement.

On 13 February 1998, there appeared both in The Straits Times and The Business Times an advertisement by the appellants of an exhibition called Logistics Asia 98 which was being organised by the appellants and which would be held at Suntec City from 14 to 16 October 1998. On noticing these advertisements, Teng sent a memorandum by fax to the appellants alleging that the appellants by organising Logistics Asia 98 had tried to undermine Logismat 99, which was an exhibition owned by the Association and which would be held in conjunction with the IA 99 exhibition. Teng expressed the view that Logistics Asia 98 was in competition with Logismat 99 and threatened to take legal action, if the appellants made use of any data relating to the IA or Logismat to promote Logistics Asia 98. The appellants denied any breach of their obligations and claimed that the profiles of the two exhibitions were different: Logistics Asia 98 focused on logistic services and technology, while Logismat concerned equipment, hardware and automation for material handling and storage. On 16 March 1998, Teng wrote a lengthy letter to the appellants alleging again that the appellants had failed in their duty as show managers because of the poor showing at the IA 97 exhibition and asserting that by organising Logistic Asia 98 the appellants had put themselves in a position where their interest would conflict with their duty. He maintained that Logistics Asia was in direct competition with the IA 99 exhibition/Logismat.

At this juncture, it is necessary to refer briefly to the terms of the sale and purchase agreement dated 3 April 1998 entered into between the Association and Messe Dusseldorf regarding the sale to the latter of 80% of the Association`s rights in the IA exhibitions. Amongst other things, cl 4.2 of the agreement provided that Messe Dusseldorf`s subsidiary, Messe Dusseldorf Asia Pte Ltd (`MDA`), was appointed the management agent and organiser of the IA shows. It was also expressly acknowledged in cl 7 of the agreement that there was an existing management agreement between the Association and the appellants regarding the IA shows. Messe Dusseldorf agreed to negotiate with the appellants for a voluntary termination of the management agreement and the Association also agreed to employ all legitimate means to assist in the negotiation. On 6 April 1998, SIAA gave formal notice to the appellants of the assignment of its rights under the management agreement to MDA.

In the meanwhile, the appellants by a fax dated 3 April 1998 reminded Teng that they were still awaiting his confirmation of the terms and conditions of the forms of contracts for the exhibition space and pointed out that without the confirmation they could not go ahead with the printing of the contract forms and without the contract forms they could not convert the reservation of over 3,100 sq m of exhibition space, which they had secured, into `firm options`. This was followed by a lengthy letter written by one Mike Tan, the general manager of the appellants, to Teng enclosing copies of the `Priority Space Applications` and stressing again that the space reservations which they had obtained should be converted into firm bookings. In reply, Teng sent to Mike Tan a fax stating that SIAA had assigned the management agreement to MDA and requesting him (Mike Tan) to address the concerns to them.

In late April 98, MDA began to perform management duties in relation to the IA 99 exhibition, such as inviting exhibitors to book exhibition space for the IA 99 exhibition. Matters came to a head when the appellants found out that MDA had invited exhibitors of the IA 99 exhibition to a presentation to be made by the Association and MDA on 5 May 1998. Thereupon the appellants sent a fax to SIAA requesting to be invited to the presentation, and on the same day SIAA responded by informing them that the management agreement had been terminated and they had no right to attend the presentation. This fax was followed by a letter to the appellants of the same date written by the solicitors for SIAA and MDA terminating the management agreement.

The appellants brought an action against both the respondents claiming damages for breach of the management agreement. The breach was alleged to be constituted, inter alia, by the sale of the IA exhibitions to Messe Dusseldorf, the refusal to approve the space contract documents and brochures as well as the wrongful termination of the management agreement. In the action, the Association was joined as a party on the ground that both of them, the Association and SIAA, were in reality one and the same entity or alternatively on the ground that SIAA was the Association`s agent in the execution and performance of the management agreement. Undoubtedly, it was of...

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4 cases
  • Ng Giap Hon v Westcomb Securities Pte Ltd and Others
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 29 April 2009
    ...Association v Herman Iskandar [1998] 2 SLR 265 at [45]; Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association [2000] 4 SLR 137 at [42]; Hiap Hong & Co Pte Ltd v Hong Huat Development Co (Pte) Ltd [2001] 2 SLR 458 at [18]; Tan Chin Seng v Raffles Town Club Pte ......
  • Forefront Medical Technology (Pte) Ltd v Modern-Pak Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 17 January 2006
    ...and Commerce International SA [1998] AC 20 (refd) Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association [2000] 3 SLR (R) 177; [2000] 4 SLR 137 (refd) Moorcock, The (1889) 14 PD 64 (folld) National Bank of Greece SA v Pinios Shipping Co No 1 [1990] 1 AC 637 (refd) ......
  • Ng Giap Hon v Westcomb Securities Pte Ltd and Others
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 29 April 2009
    ...Association v Herman Iskandar [1998] 2 SLR 265 at [45]; Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association [2000] 4 SLR 137 at [42]; Hiap Hong & Co Pte Ltd v Hong Huat Development Co (Pte) Ltd [2001] 2 SLR 458 at [18]; Tan Chin Seng v Raffles Town Club Pte ......
  • Econ Piling Pte Ltd v NCC International AB
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 25 February 2008
    ...but drawing an inference from the whole. In Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association & Anor [2000] 4 SLR 137, the Court of Appeal accepted that all the surrounding circumstances should be taken into account in the determination of the existence of......
2 books & journal articles
  • Contract Law
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review Nbr. 2000, December 2000
    • 1 December 2000
    ...JBL 1). In the Singapore Court of Appeal of Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association[2000] 4 SLR 137, LP Thean JA, who delivered the judgment of the court, was of the view that “no matter which test is applied, the touchstone of ‘necessity’ remains. T......
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Journal Nbr. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 December 2002
    ...v UDL Shipping (Singapore) Pte Ltd[1995] 3 SLR 25 and Miller Freeman Exhibitions Pte Ltd v Singapore Industrial Automation Association[2000] 4 SLR 137. 33 See para 20 of the Hong Huat Case. 34 Sutcliffe v Thackrah [1974] AC 727. See also the dictum of Warren Khoo J in Aoki Corporation v Lip......

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