All is fair in love and war—while some may extend that saying to business. And when one addresses business, one prefers to not mix business and pleasure, let alone blur the lines between work and personal affairs. However, the affable and humorous Datuk Seth Yap together with the elegant and warm Datin Lea Chan seem to have cracked the code for the perfect partnership in all aspects of their life as husband and wife, as well as business partners. Below are excerpts of the story of how the lawyers-turned-developers met, and how they are now seeing through the success and plans for their company.

Above A glimpse of what went on during our photo shoot with the power couple at Red by Sirocco Hotel --- which they developed.

How they met

SY: I spent my early years until I was 12 growing up in Malaysia, then Singapore to study, and finally England to read law. I’ve always known I wanted to be a lawyer—I like to talk! But I also considered teaching, so before I decided to go to England to become a lawyer, I had a brief stint as a tutor. I did so well that my mother opened a teaching centre! But then, after that I saw through my dreams of becoming a lawyer, and eventually qualified as a barrister. I just felt like that was who I should be. Not to forget, that was also how I met my wife, close to 13 years ago. We chambered together, she had a boyfriend, married the boyfriend, many years down the road I got married too, then we both divorced, and we got together! That’s the long story short! [laughs]

How their romance unfolded

LC: He was a very good friend during my chambering years. He liked me first, for sure! Everyone can tell you that he has liked me forever. But yes, because we were both good friends, and decided to open a law firm. Of course, at that time my first marriage didn’t work out. We were there for each other, and it seemed like the next move! The transition of being very good friends to very good business partners helps a lot in our marriage—not many marriages would have the wife play such a big role in the company!

The transition of being very good friends to very good business partners helps a lot in our marriage.
Datin Lea Chan

How they balance work and relationship

SY: I see more good than bad when you’re married to your business partner because there are just so many things to talk about. I’m not just talking about the romance part, but everything in general. A lot of friends think this is hard to juggle, but she and I, we have come to an understanding. We know not to overstep when it comes to work. 

LC: I had to start learning the role of the wife, actually. But even in business, we learn to say the same things, and if there are any disagreements or clashes, we will talk discreetly. At work, he heads the company and makes all the decisions and calls all the shots. I eventually became the wife-cum-business partner, and so we always present a united front. Even if I strongly disagree with something, I will have a private meeting with him and convince him, as he always welcomes my thoughts and ideas. It’s all quite balanced. Being together at work, and at home, also means that we have a lot to talk about—we’re never bored of each other. Plus of course, it’s very good for him that his lawyer sleeps next to him!

Tatler Asia
I see more good than bad when you’re married to your business partner because there are just so many things to talk about.
Datuk Seth Yap
Tatler Asia

How their work is going

SY: We have Malaysia Tourism City coming up! As developers, we are very small players but we are very aggressive. That’s why we find a very different positioning for ourselves. My ultimate aim is for the tourism city to have a huge impact on the country. 

LC: Monopoly Mansion by Sirocco is opening this year, and that’s very exciting because it’s the first in the world. What we want to do is get to know who Mr Monopoly is. So we came from his angle—born in the 1920s, during the Great Depression, so the whole decor will be very Great Gatsby-like. We have thought about having the room keys designed like the property cards in the game, and we plan on offering rewards to those who collect them, for example, redeem a free room or free merchandise. So, I’m really looking forward to the opening in Q2. 

  • Art DirectionSyahlia Albina Sari
  • PhotographyDelvian Xian/Imagerom
  • StylingOng Chin Huat
  • Make-UpJoey Yap
  • HairMavis Ang
  • WordsKathlyn D'Souza
  • VideographyDean Shaari, assisted by Khairul Imran
  • LocationRed by Sirocco Hotel
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