“Everyone loves a holiday!” Geraldine Dreiser remarks gaily as she sits at the Art Deco dining table of The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s namesake suite, while her husband, Jacob Yeoh, checks his phone amid the pre-Christmas work push. The end of 2018 promises to be particularly special for the couple – not just because they’ll be celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary this month, but also as they’re expecting an addition to their young family very soon.
“It’s increasingly rare to get uninterrupted family time, without going crazy over your e-mail and phone going off, so that’s something to look forward to over Christmas,” Dreiser adds. “Honestly, it’s nice to have the gift of time to be in the same place together.” It’s been a busy year for the couple, both of whom work at YTL Corporation Berhad – albeit in different arms of the company. Yeoh serves as deputy CEO of YTL Communications (as well as being the executive director of YTL e-Solutions and YTL Power Generation), while Dreiser is vice-president of marketing for YTL Hotels.
“Our work is fairly separate, which is an arrangement I like because we can focus on the most important things when we’re together: the children, our household, and how we’re raising our family,” she says. It is – in more ways than one – all about family when you’re part of YTL. Yeoh, who joined the company in 2006 and helped spearhead Yes – a 4G Internet brand that now offers two robust mobile networks in Malaysia – is well-versed in the dynamics of working in a family company.
“It’s challenging to a point, but it’s fun as well. My father (Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, the executive chairman of YTL Corporation) is obviously a great role model, but my uncles and aunts have so much knowledge built into their brains, too. Everyone might have strong opinions, but iron sharpens iron, and the best ideas always come out of our family discussions,” he muses.
THE YTL WAY
Although Yeoh remains tight-lipped about what’s to come as he works to drive growth in the communications service provider’s enterprise business segment (“A lot of these projects are highly confidential!”), he has his eye on everything from 5G network developments to assessing growth in the technology space. “There’s so much innovation going on right now, and across YTL’s industries – be it cement, hotels, or construction – technology is out there to help us. We’re on the cusp of seriously interesting things in artificial intelligence, where machines can reduce human error.”
“If we can apply this across all industry verticals, it will make for a better YTL. My father always likes to say that if you look across civilisations, those who’ve mastered language the quickest will always be the winners. Today, we’re talking about the two letters of binary: 1 and O. If you master the language of the digital age, that’s where the real winners are going to be – binary will be this era’s key to success in moving forward.”
As it happens, communication is also what Dreiser excels in – a strength she’s played to ever since she joined YTL Hotels after marrying Yeoh. She says of her role: “PR is a huge part of the business, in terms of ensuring the brand is portrayed in the right way, so that it helps us continue growing to a global audience.”
“Beside opening The Ritz- Carlton, Koh Samui this year, we’ve recently expanded considerably in the UK with The Academy Hotel in London and Monkey Island Estate in Berkshire, so it’s even more important to translate YTL Hotels’ DNA correctly to new markets. We emphasise that we’re never just a property – we’re all about crafting experiences.”
ALL TOGETHER NOW
When Dreiser says that “there’s nothing we do at YTL Hotels that doesn’t have a story. Even sitting here in The Majestic, it’s so full of rich memories,” she’s speaking from experience.
The couple (who were introduced to each other through mutual friends in Singapore) were married at Pangkor Laut Resort and held their banquet dinner at The Majestic – after which, unbelievably, they ran the Half-Ironman triathlon in Auckland for their honeymoon.
With two children (and a third on the way), Yeoh and Dreiser’s pursuits have taken a gentler turn, and they’re getting ready to drive up to Cameron Highlands Resort for the annual Christmas tree lighting and the hotel’s German-style Christmas market. “We have photographs from the first year we went, when it was just my daughter, then my daughter and son the second year, and the third year will be me with a bump! It’s lovely to see that progression through the years; it’s become a tradition of ours,” she says.
Yeoh’s family often enjoys a white Christmas in Switzerland – “My father says skiing is the one activity everyone can do at all levels”. The other option is a potluck dinner. Say Dreiser: “All of us have to bring a dish to his dad’s place, and we have this wonderful, cosy family dinner.”
“Nothing is catered – everyone has to use their cooking skills, and Jacob does a really good beef wellington.” And, given that she’s glowing like a bauble at the prospect of the season’s festivities, it’s safe to say that for the couple and their growing family, the best is yet to come.
IT’S A WRAP
THE POWER COUPLE’S GREATEST GIFTING MOMENTS.
On the best gift they’ve ever received from each other
Yeoh: I’m really not into material gifts, so I’m going say our kids. (laughs) Geraldine did get me a saltwater fishing reel that I could use, but, as I said, it’s much more about hanging out with my family. That’s so important to me.
Dreiser: He’s very practical – if I need something, I have to explain why, and it needs to be used frequently! Jacob gave me a Dyson Supersonic hairdryer last year, which is still as good as it was on Day One. It comes highly recommended: It’s faster and safer, especially if you have children running around, as it doesn’t have any blades. It’s a worthy investment.
On the gifts they’d like to receive
Yeoh: I’ll figure something out. Geraldine knows I’m not fussed!
Dreiser: It’s hard to shop for him because he doesn’t need much at all. For myself, I’m still working and there’s a new baby on the way, it would be nice to have a new bag, just to stuff everything in. You can use bags all the time and we’re only going to have more kids, so one bag will go a long way!