JKH appoints new Group leaders

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By 2018-01-03

By Ravi Ladduwahetty

John Keells Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka's premier blue chip corporate leader with the largest market capitalization, yesterday appointed its Main Board Director Krishan Balendra as Deputy Group Chairman and Gihan Cooray as Group Finance Director.

Balendra succeeds Ajit Damon Gunewardene, who retired from the Group after 12 years in that position, while Gihan Cooray succeeds Ronnie Peiris, who also retired from that slot last year.

Krishan Balendra is expected to take over as Chairman of the premier Glennie Street blue chip with the retirement of incumbent Chairman Susantha Chaminda Ratnayake, on January 1, 2019 in a transition that will mark the only instance in Sri Lanka's corporate history of a father and son both being Chairmen of any CSE-listed blue chips, as well as of John Keells Holdings PLC.

His father, Ken Balendra, was also one of the longest-serving Chairmen of the premier blue chip, and under whom the Group really diversified with the liberalization of the economy in 1978. Both Ken and his son Krishan were Chairmen of the Colombo Stock Exchange as well. Ken went a step further by being Chairman of both Ceylon Tobacco Co PLC and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. All three positions have also been held by incumbent JKH Group Chairman Susantha Ratnayake.

Krishan Balendra also serves as the Chairman of Nations Trust Bank PLC and is the Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Sri Lanka. He is a former Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange. Krishan started his professional career at UBS Warburg, Hong Kong, as an investment banker, focusing primarily on equity capital markets. After a four year stint in Hong Kong, he continued his career in corporate finance at Aitken Spence and Company PLC, Sri Lanka, prior to joining the John Keells Holdings Group.Krishan holds a law degree (LLB) from the University of London and an MBA from INSEAD.

When Krishan Balendra takes over as JKH Group Chairman, he will be the youngest ever Chairman at 45, and will have a straight 15-year run. The earlier record was held by incumbent Chairman Susantha Ratnayake, who became the youngest JKH Group Chairman at 48 in 2006, where he would be holding the slot for 13 years by 2019.

Ratnayake succeeded his mentor and former Chairman Ken (Kandiah) Balendra, himself one of the longest serving Chairmen of the JKH Group, taking on the mantle in January 1990, succeeding David Blackler, where he held the post for 10 years.

Meanwhile, just-retired JKH Deputy Group Chairman Ajit Gunewardene said that he would use his time to read and relax now that he is retired.

Asked whether he was offered any Board positions in any other corporates, he denied it, quipping, "Retired means I am retired!"
However, he will remain on the Board of Directors at the Board of Investment.



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