Singapore

Tuition centre and its former star tutor embroiled in court battle

It claims tutor breached contract; he countersues over tuition centre's branding

A tuition centre and its former star tutor are embroiled in a court battle involving allegations of disloyalty, nepotism and rumours about an extramarital affair.

TuitionGenius has sued Mr Eugene Toh for breaching his employment contract by carrying on his own tuition business on the side while he was an employee and director of the company.

The centre is seeking to claw back unspecified damages in tuition fees received by Mr Toh, 30, during his alleged moonlighting activities. It argues that he violated the terms of his contract, which stipulated that he cannot engage in activities in competition with its business.

The tuition centre also alleges that Mr Toh failed to "exercise loyalty and fidelity" and act in its best interests. However, Mr Toh contends that there was an oral agreement that allowed him to carry on a separate tuition business of his own.

He has countersued the tuition centre for continuing to use the brand TuitionGenius, which was his idea, as well as his name to market classes after he left the centre.

The company asserts that it owns the value of the brand's reputation, even if Mr Toh had come up with it.

The hearing started in the High Court on Wednesday.

Mr Toh started giving tuition lessons in 2007, and used the brand TuitionGenius to market his popular economics classes for junior college students, according to court documents.

In April 2009, Mr Toh and a family friend, construction businessman Keng Yew Huat, 51, set up a company- TuitionGenius.

Mr Toh said Mr Keng approached and persuaded him to set up the joint venture. But Mr Keng says it was Mr Toh who came up with a proposal to expand his tuition business.

Mr Toh said he agreed to use TuitionGenius as part of the joint venture's corporate name. However, the tuition classes were eventually branded with the name REAL Education .

Between November 2010 and December 2015, Mr Toh registered three companies of his own, each bearing the words "Economics at TuitionGenius".

He resigned as a director and shareholder of TuitionGenius in October 2015. A month later, Mr Keng transferred TuitionGenius to his son Jun Hao, 26.

Mr Toh claims he considered withdrawing from the joint venture in late 2014, when rumours started that Mr Keng was having an affair with his mother.

In June 2015, Mr Toh demoted Mr Keng Jun Hao and cut his pay to $1,800. A day later, Mr Keng reinstated his son as an assistant managing director with a salary of $3,000.

Mr Toh's lawyer, Mr Ng Lip Chih of NLC Law Asia, said his client felt that this was nepotism and told Mr Keng that he wished to resign. Mr Toh claims he decided to quit after Mr Keng's daughter got involved in a dangerous car chase with his mother in September 2015.

However, the Kengs, represented by Mr Adrian Tan of TSMP Law Corporation, have a different explanation of what led to Mr Toh's exit.

Mr Keng testified yesterday that he had asked Mr Toh how he could afford two sports cars and a landed property when the tuition centre was not making profits. At the time, Mr Toh cried as he replied that he had paid for these with sales proceeds from his mother's flat and loans, said Mr Keng.

The hearing continues.

COURT & CRIME