Malaysia has been a locus for lucrative mercantile enterprise and adaptive entrepreneurship ever since the myth-shrouded days of Srivijaya, and the individuals found on this list make it resoundingly clear that the positive attributes of Malaysia’s economic past have not waned. Though each one possesses the business savy and political acumen that are the staple qualities of billionaires of every stripe, the unique talents that have helped establish their fortunes are sure to delight and inform. Whether hard work and persistence, inheritance, or the beneficent fluctuations of the global market have brought these men (and woman) to where they are today, their achievements are a testament to what can be achieved should one consistently act at the right time.
10. Vincent Tan: Worth $1.300 Billion
This self-made billionaire made his fortune with the Berjaya Group Conglomerate, founded in 1984. The Berjaya Group controls a wide variety of businesses including resorts, gambling, food and beverages and property. Vincent Tan also operates the MiTV, Malaysia’s second largest pay TV service launched in September 2005.
Vincent Tan’s numerous business achievements are frequently attributed to his association with Mahathir Mohammad, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister.
9. Tiong Hiew King: Worth $1.800 Billion
Renowned as a prominent Timber Tycoon, Tiong Hiew King founded his logging corporation, the Rimbunan Hijau Group, in 1975. Tiong is currently investing significantly in oil-and-gas explorative operations in China and Myanmar as well as his native Malaysia. As if being a lucrative Timber Tycoon weren’t enough, Tiong is currently attempting to add ‘media mogul’ to his host of titles. He currently owns seven Chinese-language newspapers and 30 magazines.
8. Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary: $2.75 Billion
The richest Corporate Bumiputra figure in Malaysia, Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary is also the country’s largest private borrower. His diverse involvement in logistics, transportation, plantation, property development and defense sectors have cumulated his massive fortune. Although several of his initiatives - notably his clearance of mangroves for the development of Johor Port - have brought AlBukhary into the spotlight for the wrong reasons, he has also received several accolades including being rewarded as Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah for his contributions to national development.
AlBukhary’s subsidiary companies have achieved a virtual monopoly over some of Malaysia’s crucial sectors including ports, rice-farming and power. This monopoly has largely been achieved via AlBukhary’s political connections.
7. Yeoh Tiong Lay: $2.8 Billion
Founder of the YTL Corporation, Malaysia’s most successful infrastructure conglomerate- established in 1955, Yeoh Tiong Lay has been lauded for his philanthropy as well as his industrial tenacity. Cement has become a core business for YTL, as have the corporation’s two power plants in Indonesia. Yeoh also owns PowerSeraya, one of the key energy companies in Singapore.
Although he has entrusted the majority of management duties to his son Francis, Yeoh remains a lifelong member of the Master Builder Association. In 2008, the emperor of Japan awarded Yeoh the ‘Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon’ in recognition of his efforts to establish greater economic ties between Malaysia and Japan.
6. Lee Shin Cheng: $4.5 Billion
Head of the colossal IOI Corporation Berhad, self-confessed tree-talker Lee Shin Cheng made his enormous fortune in Palm oil production and property development. It is astounding to think that the young boy, growing up on a rubber plantation and selling ice-cream on a bicycle to support his family, would grow up to rank as the sixth richest Malaysian citizen.
In addition to producing the oil and fat found in myriad soaps, cosmetics and detergents, the IOI group is one of the leading real-estate developing organizations in Malaysia, with projects ranging from shopping malls to townships.
Lee Shin Cheng has recently begun to invest extensively in Chinese real-estate, particularly in the Xiamen area (in which he bought land in for 190 Million US Dollars last year).
5. Quek Leng Chan: $ 4.8 Billion
In addition to being a qualified Barrister-at-law, Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan has been an eminent businessman in a number of sectors including real-estate, financial services and manufacturing. Quek is the co-founder of the Hong Leong Group Malaysia: A conglomerate that grew from a trading company in 1963 to encompass manufacturing, distribution, property and financial services.
Despite leading an exceedingly private lifestyle, Quek is reportedly a very high-roller on the international gambling scene. Just last year he was declared one of the United Kingdom’s top Casino Moguls. This title was secured after the RM1.24 billion acquisition of Gala Coral’s Casino’s by the Rank Group Plc: A leading European gaming and betting business owned by Quek.
4. Teh Hong Piow: $ 5.6 Billion
Teh Hong Piow is founder of Malaysia’s Public Bank. He began his career in 1950 and swiftly rose through the ranks to become general manager at Malayan Banking Berhad at the young age of 34! Teh has served as chairman of Public for almost half a century (his bank was founded in 1966), and has enjoyed an exponential increase in fortunes with the rise of his bank’s shares. Not very long after its inception, Public Bank has expanded to encompass Vietnamese, Cambodian and even Chinese markets.
Teh is a prominent stakeholder in the LPI Capital insurance firm, as well as a notable contributor to the Malaysian Paralympic Council.
3. Lee Kim Hua: $6.6 Billion
As the widow of the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong- the founder of the Genting Group – and mother of Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay – Ranked 16th richest man in Malaysia by Forbes- it is little wonder that Lee Kim Hua is the richest woman in Malaysia. Lee Kim Hua’s family began their steady rise to financial preeminence with the Kien Huat Construction Company established in 1950. This lucrative company was responsible for the Cameron Highlands Hydro-Electric Power Project as well Kelantan’s Kemubu Irrigation Scheme. However, it was with the Genting Group (39.6 percent of which is owned by Kien Huat Realty Sdn Bhd) that the Lim name was truly established. In 1980, the Genting Group began investing in Palm Oil production after absorbing the Rubber Trust Group and, in 1994, the group also became involved with power generation and paper manufacturing. Lee Kim Hua’s husband will, of course, be remembered primarily for founding one of the most successful Casino resorts in the world in Genting Highlands.
Though not particularly well known for any distinctive business ventures, Lee Kim Hua was reportedly a strong supporter of all her husband’s ventures and staggering achievements.
2. Ananda Krishnan: $11.7 Billion
The self-made telecoms billionaire Ananda Krishnan made his first big splash on the public scene when he assisted Bob Geldof in organizing the 1985 Live Aid concert. After enjoying a significant amount of success as an oil trader, his triumphs have come to include the ownership of Maxis Communications and MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems (the two largest communications companies in Malaysia). Ownership of the Maxis Company alone would be a colossal achievement, as it is by far the biggest cell phone company in Malaysia with about 5 million subscribers.
Ananda, like Quek Leng Chan, prefers life away from the public eye. This almost reclusive attitude has certainly been adopted by his son Ven Ajahn Siripanyo, who has rejected a life of material privilege to become a Buddhist monk.
1. Robert Kuok: $12.5 Billion
Malaysia’s richest man – and South East Asia’s second richest- Robert Kuok owes his staggering wealth to his involvements in palm-oil, shipping, property and sugar. The primary source of Kuok’s wealth is his stake in the world’s largest listed palm oil company, Wilmar International.
Kuok’s good fortune began when he founded his sugar business during the early post-colonial years. After purchasing sugar at a relatively cheap price from India shortly before the value of the substance skyrocketed, Kuok steadily managed to control 80% of the Malaysian Sugar market. He would soon after be known as the “Sugar King of Asia”.
Though Robert Kuok’s conglomerates encompass a vast array of international companies (including a number of bottling companies that cater for the majority of China’s Coca-Cola market), he is perhaps best known for his ownership of the Shangri-La hotel and resort chain. Though Robert Kuok formally retired in 1993 – passing the reigns of his colossal business network to his fourth son Jeffrey Ong Teng Buey- the wealth he has amassed and the astounding business take-deals he has accomplished over the course of his life makes him worthy of his unique position of distinction.
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