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KUALA LUMPUR: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today hinted that Proton Holdings Bhd Managing Director Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir might not want to continue leading the national car maker under the ownership of DRB-Hicom Bhd.
Mahathir, who is also Proton adviser, said in Syed Zainal's case, there was no question of sacking but merely a question of an agreement between the latter and DRB-Hicom as to how best to deal with the problem of redundancy.
"DRB-Hicom is quite entitled to change the MD because they now own Proton but at the moment Syed Zainal is still the managing director and he is getting paid for the position.
"But of course he might not want to continue. It's his choice," Mahathir told reporters after chairing a Roundtable High Level Strategy Session organised by the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia.
He was commenting on news report that Syed Zainal would be removed as managing director of the company after the launch of the Proton Preve sedan model tonight.
When asked on the potential successor, Mahathir said:"I think if Syed Zainal is not there, DRB-Hicom has to place someone there.
"Maybe, one of their own DRB-Hicom people who are experienced in the automotive industry (could fill the position)," he said.
Last week, a business daily reported that Syed Zainal had handed in his resignation, days before launching its latest model and weeks after DRB-Hicom took over the loss-making company.
However, later on the same day, Proton issued a statement refuting the news report by saying: "Syed Zainal is still holding the position of Group Managing Director of Proton and his services are still required in the company".
It is believed that DRB-Hicom Chief Operating Officer Datuk Lukman Ibrahim is poised to take over from Syed Zainal.
Syed Zainal, 50, who ventured into the automobile industry by becoming Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) Senior General Manager in 1999 and later the company's Deputy Managing Director in 2005, was appointed Proton's Managing Director on January 1, 2006.
In January, state asset manager Khazanah Nasional Bhd announced the sale of its 42.74 per cent stake in Proton to DRB-Hicom for RM1.291 billion.
The sale was concluded last month and DRB-Hicom appointed its Managing Director Datuk Seri Mohd Khamil Jamil as Proton Executive Chairman and Executive Director, replacing Datuk Seri Nadzi Salleh, who tendered his resignation days after the completion of the deal. -- BERNAMA