Business magazine Forbes released yesterday (March 5) its 2019 list of Billionaires and for the second year running, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos topped the list with a net worth of US$131 billion.
Bill Gates is named the second richest man in the world (US$96.5 billion), followed by Warren Buffett (US$82.5 billion).
A significant 195 newcomers successfully joined the ranks, with the richest being Colin Huang, founder of Chinese discount web retailer Pinduoduo, which went public in the United States in July.
Meanwhile, celebrity-turned-makeup mogul Kylie Jenner, has been named the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at 21 years old.
According to Forbes, Asia Pacific is the region with the most billionaires, accounting for 767 of the total with a net worth of US$2.5 trillion; so who in Singapore has managed to join the ranks of these affluent people?
#112 – Robert & Philip Ng, US$12 billion
- The real estate dynamic duo control Far East Organization, Singapore’s largest private landlord and property developer, which was founded by their father Ng Teng Fong
- Ng Teng Fong moved from China to Singapore in 1934 and was later dubbed as the “King of Orchard Road”
- Their Hong Kong arm, Sino Group, is overseen by older sibling Robert and his son Daryl, while Philip oversees the Singapore interests
#203 – Goh Cheng Liang, US$7.2 billion
- Goh gets the bulk of his wealth from his 39% stake in Japan’s Nippon Paint Holdings, the fourth largest paint manufacturer in the world
- He started making paints in a small factory in Singapore before partnering Nippon Paint in 1962
- Goh’s son, Hup Jin, became the chairman of Nippon Paint in March 2018 and also runs their privately-held joint venture Nipsea
#224 – Zhang Yong, US$6.8 billion
- Zhang is a new entrant to the Billionaires list, but is known as China’s richest restaurateur
- Although from China, he has since become a Singapore citizen
- He is the chairman of Sichuan hot pot chain Haidilao, which went public in September 2018
- The high school dropout didn’t even know how to prepare the typical Sichuan hot pot when he first started
- Haidilao became popular because of its spicy dishes and great customer service, which includes free manicures for waiting customers
- His 370 restaurants are located mostly in China, but also in the US, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore; and has generated US$10.4 billion in sales
#267 – Wee Cho Yaw, US$6.1 billion
- Wee is the chairman emeritus of United Overseas Bank (UOB). He stepped down as the bank’s chairman in 2013, and retired as director in April 2018.
- UOB was co-founded by his father Wee Khiang Cheng in 1935 as United Chinese Bank
- The Wee family also owns a property arm Kheng Leong — its portfolio includes 45 apartments in the Nassim area, a luxury condo which was acquired for US$290 million, among others
- The Wees also controls Haw Par, maker of the iconic Chinese ointment Tiger Balm
#311 – Kwee brothers, US$5.6 billion
- The four Kwee siblings control privately-held Pontiac Land, which owns an array of luxury hotels and iconic office towers in Singapore
- Pontiac Land was founded by their Indonesian father Henry Kwee, who migrated to Singapore in 1958
- In New York, the brothers are building an 82-story tower beside the Museum of Modern Art, where penthouses cost more than US$70 million
#745 – Kwek Leng Beng, US$3 billion
- Kwek is the executive chairman of Singapore’s Hong Leong Group, which was founded by his father in 1941
- He is also the executive chairman of City Developments, Singapore’s second-largest property developer
- Kwek has been aggressively expanding overseas in recent years, acquiring asserts in the UK, China and Australia
#804 – Raj Kumar and Kishin RK, US$2.8 billion
- This father-son duo are among Singapore’s leading landlords with their Royal Holdings/RB Capital property empire
- They have been on a dealmaking spree after a 2011 family settlement between Raj and his younger sibling Asok Kumar Hiranandani, who is also a billionaire
- Their prize holdings include the 442-room Holiday Inn Express at Clarke Quay and the five-star Hotel Intercontinental at Robertson Quay
#877 – Choo Chong Ngen, US$2.6 billion
- Choo dropped out of school to become a fishmonger to help make ends meet at home
- He later made his fortune in textiles before establishing the Hotel 81 budget chain in Geylang, Singapore’s red-light district
- He is now expanding in the mid-tier market, where he has introduced five new hotel brands since 2009
- His daughter Carolyn has been helping him run his privately-held hotel empire, which has been rebranded to Worldwide Hotels
- Since 2017, he has expanded into Thailand, Malaysia and Australia with seven hotels managed by Travelodge and Holiday Inn
#916 – Jason Chang, US$2.5 billion
- Chang is the chairman of Taiwan’s Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, which is the world’s largest provider of independent semiconductor assembling and test manufacturing services
- Together with his brother, Chang is one of the main investors in commercial real estate developer Sino Horizon Holding
#916 – Peter Lim, US$2.5 billion
- The son of a fishmonger, Lim took on part-time jobs as a waiter and taxi driver to pay off his college fees
- Lim cashed out of palm oil giant Wilmar in 2011, and is now focused on property, healthcare and sports
- He also consolidated his healthcare businesses in Singapore and Malaysia with his Singapore-listed Rowsley, renaming it Thomson Medical Group
- He once made a failed bid to buy English football club Liverpool, but owns a controlling stake in Spanish football club Valencia
#962 – Kuok Khoon Hong, US$2.4 billion
- Kuok co-founded Wilmar in 1991 and built it into one of the world’s largest palm oil producers
- His other investments include stakes in fellow billionaire Zhong Sheng Jian’s Yanlord Land as well as Perennial Real Estate Holdings
- He co-owns the Aviva Tower in London with Wilmar co-founder and Indonesian billionaire Martua Sitorus
#1116 – Chang Yun Chung, US$2.1 billion
- Chang, aged 100, is the oldest living billionaire in the world
- He co-founded Pacific International Lines in 1967 as a coastal operator with two second-hand ships
- After 51 years as the chairman, he handed over the reins to his son Teo Siong Seng in March 2018
#1227 – Sam Goi, US$1.9 billion
- Son of a Fujian farmer, Goi owns Tee Yih Jia Manufacturing, the world’s largest maker of popiah skins
- He dropped out of school to work in his father’s grocery store and later bought a struggling food unit when he dabbled into frozen foods
- Goi also has real estate interests through his stakes in listed firms GSH and KOP
#1281 – Shu Ping, US$1.8 billion
- Shu Ping is the wife of fellow billionaire Zhang Yong, chairman of Chinese hot pot chain Haidilao
- Like her husband, Shu Ping is also now a citizen of Singapore
- Shu is the director and one of three co-founders of Haidilao, where she helps oversee the management and strategic development of the business
#1349 – Asok Kumar Hiranandani, US$1.7 billion
- Asok is the co-founder of Royal Brothers property group
- He separated from his older brother Raj Kumar in 2011 after dividing their property empire
- The Royal Group, run by his son Bobby, owns Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort and the So Softel Hotel in Singapore
#1349 – Lim Oon Kuin, US$1.7 billion
- At age 20, Lim founded Hin Leong Trading with a single truck delivering diesel to fishermen and small rural power producers
- Founded in 1963, Hin Leong is one of Singapore’s largest independent oil traders today
- The group’s shipping arm, Ocean Tankers, owns a fleet of over 130 tankers and is run by his son Evan
- Lim also co-owns oil storage unit Universal Terminal with PetroChina
#1425 – Zhong Sheng Jian, US$1.6 billion
- Zhong is the chairman of Yanlord Land, one of the largest non-government-owned real estate developers in China
- He moved to Singapore in 1988 and Yanlord’s shares are publicly traded here as well
- Yanlord and partners announced plans to invest US$531 million for stakes in Singapore real estate companies in July 2017
#1511 – Chua Thian Poh, US$1.5 billion
- This high school dropout started off making hooks and spikes for the logging industry
- Chua went on to establish luxury property developer Ho Bee Land, which is known for building high-end condos in Sentosa
- The company has a diversified portfolio that includes commercial property overseas, notably in London and Munich
#1511 – Oei Hong Leong, US$1.5 billion
- Oei is the son of late Indonesian billionaire Eka Tipta Widjaja, but he is a citizen and long-time resident of Singapore
- The bulk of his wealth is derived from a corporate bond portfolio and real estate assets
- He invested US$5 billion in his new company One Belt One Net, which will build data centres in Singapore
#1605 – Ron Sim, US$1.4 billion
- At age 20, Sim started a company that sold knife sharpeners and other household goods
- He is now the founder of OSIM International, maker of high-end massage chairs
- He took the company private in 2016 when its shares drastically dropped from their 2014 high
- He also founded V3 Group, which houses OSIM and TWG Tea, among others; as well as R3 Asset Management to back fast-growing companies
- Sim also owns a sizeable property portfolio that includes a stake in listed Perennial Real Estate Holdings
#1605 – Zhao Tao, US$1.4 billion
- Zhao is the chairman of Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals, a supplier of traditional Chinese medicine to fight cardiovascular disease
- He was ranked #197 on Forbes’ China Rich List in 2018, but holds a Singapore passport
#1818 – Koh Wee Meng, US$1.2 billion
- Koh broke away from his family’s jewelry business Aspial to start his own property venture in the 1990s
- He is a hotelier and property magnate, who also controls Singapore-listed Fragrance Group
- He was once known as the Geylang King for Fragrance’s beginnings in Singapore’s red-light district
- Koh also has a majority stake in education provider TMC Education
Razer CEO Dropped Off The List In 2019
While we saw some familiar faces from Forbes’ 2018 Billionaires list — the Ng brothers and Goh Cheng Liang retained the top spots as Singapore’s richest — it is also heartening to see new entrants like Haidilao’s power couple.
But while some rose, some also fell.
Husband and wife Ong Beng Seng and Christina Ong, as well as Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, who had a net worth of US$2.1 billion and US$1.1 billion respectively, failed to join the ranks this year.
The Ongs are one of Singapore’s most influential couples. Mr Ong is the managing director of Singapore-listed Hotel Properties, which owns the Four Seasons and Hilton hotels in Singapore, among others.
Meanwhile, his wife runs Como Hotels and Resorts, retail empire Club 21 and London-listed handbag maker Mulberry.
For Tan, he gave up a law career in Singapore to start gaming devices company Razer in 2005. It has since acquired a global following and sold millions of gaming laptops, mice, fitness bands and tablets.
Following the launch of Razer’s first smartphone, Tan listed the firm in Hong Kong in November 2017, raising US$529 million.
As of 25 July 2018, Tan was listed as Singapore’s 50 richest with a net worth of US$690 million.