BooksActually owner accused of preying on young staff to step down

Renee Ting, former employee and wife of BooksActually owner Kenny Leck in a 2015 photo. Photos: Kenny Leck/Facebook
Renee Ting, former employee and wife of BooksActually owner Kenny Leck in a 2015 photo. Photos: Kenny Leck/Facebook

The owner of a beloved Singapore bookstore said last night that he will step down in the wake of allegations he had multiple relationships with the young women who worked for him including a former wife, who he didn’t pay.

Though BooksActually owner Kenny Leck, 43, did not address the details of an expose that blew up over the weekend, he conceded “personal failings” and announced he was stepping down from the store and his publishing house, Math Paper Press.

“Moving forward, I have decided to cede full legal ownership and directorship of BooksActually Pte Ltd to the current team, who will be the new owners. I will be removed from all decision-making processes with this change,” he wrote, adding that the new management would be “drafting and codifying” anti-harassment policies.

He’s accused of preying on his young employees, almost all of whom were women in their early 20s – one of which was both – former wife and employee Renee Ting.

“These failings have caused immense pain to specific ex-employees. It was also a time of personal trauma when I had made mistakes in relation to my marriage to Renee,” he said, acknowledging an affair the precipitated their divorce. He said he caused “deep pain that she may never heal from.”

Leck wasn’t an open book on everything – he said there were other details he was not ready to discuss in the scandal piece published Saturday.

“There have been allegations, and inferences, that remain totally untrue,” he said. “There will be a time when I will be ready to speak to each in detail publicly, but now is not that time. I hope you will allow me my privacy for now.”

Ting, Leck’s former wife and employee, said that he started an affair with another employee within three months of their 2016 marriage. That woman denied having become involved with him, saying that he thrice professed his love for her, and made work demands that she spend time with him. She said that although she “did like him,” she respected his work in Singapore’s writing scene and did not want to interfere in his marriage. She left the store shortly afterward.

Ting, who was hired at the bookstore in 2011 when she was 19, also said that she was not paid for months and slept on a thin mattress at the back of the Yong Siak Street store while Leck took the single bed.

Yet another employee said he used multiple email addresses to communicate with other employees in private.

The bookstore opened in 2005 and mainly housed fiction and poetry titles while championing works by local writers. It shifted online last year after closing the physical store. 

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