Robert Kuok is a Malaysian billionaire and business magnate; he is the richest man since 2002 in Malaysia and of Southeast Asia. His current net worth is 15.9 billion dollars (as of July 19th 2013; according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index. He was well recognized when he succeeded to develop a world class hotel such as Shangri-La Hotels, which is a chain of hotel being managed in over sixty resorts and hotels worldwide in cities such as Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Vancouver.
He currently owns multinational companies in numerous fields of business which he singlehandedly diversify, ranging from sugar factory’s to food production, and to farm into plantations and hotels and resorts. Robert is also well known as the “Sugar King of Asia”
Robert is the youngest among his three other brothers, born in 6th October 1923, in the state of Johor. His father had reached onto the land of Malaya from Fujian; being shipped from China at the start of the 1900s hoping for a better life he went to Johor and met his wife, fell in love and had 3 children and Robert was the youngest among the three.
As a young boy he was told by his father to have big aspirations in life and as he graduated secondary school with great results, and was accepted into Raffles College in Singapore. While he was there, Robert had become schoolmates with Lee Kuan Yew, who is the founder of modern Singapore. As he was in college, Robert began work as an office boy. Just as he was to graduate from Raffles Institutions in Singapore, the Second World War broke out;
Fortunately, he was favored and was given work; ever since then, he had been working in the grains department of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi between 1942 till 1945 and later started a business with support from his relatives (Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd) which was a year after the passing of their father’s. Even though his father passing had sadden him and his family, he pressed on with the family business, given that Robert was talented in conversing in English, so he had made several visits to England to research heavily on the sugar industry. Upon his return, he was determined and focused; he invested a large amount of his company’s resources into the sugar industry. Eventually, he had founded the country’s first sugar refinery.
Since he could relate toward the sentiment of communist thoughts and beliefs, Robert always had a good relationship with China, in comparison of the businessmen’s of his stature. He was also one the few businessmen who manage to close deals with Communists of China, having met the late Chairman Mao Tse Tung and the Fidel Castro of Cuba.
In the 1960s, Robert had incredible luck just when he bought a large amount of shoddy priced sugar from India; unexpectedly the price of sugar catapult due to an agricultural meltdown. This allowed him to invest and establish numerous partnerships with many sugar producers. This had gained him so much success to the point where he had eighty percent of the Malaysian sugar market in the palm of his hand. Thus, he was entitled as the “Sugar King of Asia”.
Robert has made significant breakthroughs with amount of connections and support in support of the mainland of China which drove him to succeed in gaining the faith and beliefs of the communist leaders. Even though he has been holding a great deal of privilege from the leaders of China, Robert has not been compliant to them. It has been said of him:
“Robert is the best China watcher in the business. He understands the backbone of the Communist Party, but while other Hong Kong tycoons tend to be subservient to Beijing, he is in no way obsequious.” Says Simon Murray (Chairman of Glencore International Plc)
In 2012, it was a state of confusion during that time for his investor in the holdings. Even though Kerry Properties shares soared fifty seven percent in Hong Kong previous year, which was double the increment in the Hang Seng Index. Whereas, Wilmar International stock index fell by thirty three percent, it is the biggest loser in Singapore’s Straits Times Index (FSSTI).
The fall has annihilated more than eight billion dollars from scratch in the company’s market value and three billion dollar from the family’s riches. This year, Wilmar’s stock price recoiled and rose by fourteen percent in January. Despite that, Kuok disputes Bloomberg’s valuation of his personal wealth at nineteen point four billion dollars ($19.4 billion) he says it’s “a fraction” of that amount, though he does not volunteer an alternative figure.
In conclusion, Robert’s achievements has given him a level of political influence; he was subsidiary in the negotiations between Malaysia and China having acknowledged diplomatic ties between both countries and setting up meeting between the both government bodies, resultant in the de facto acknowledgement of states between them. He is listed as one of the advisors which involves the hereafter of Hong Kong and has a small share in CITIC Pacific, a conglomerate Holdings Company based in Hong Kong.
Even at the age of 89, He still bares on enthusiastically to handle the processes within the family’s business, even though he has designated almost of the administration work to his relatives. He does however provide assistance as an advisor for his family, consistently encouraging the next generation to show perseverance in their goals in life.
As it has been known by many, He was from a poor family from birth as he kept on emerging from poverty and made himself one of Southeast Asia’s richest which also made him an inspiration for the current and future generations. Robert has always had strong faith in hard work, perseverance, and had intelligent mindset. He hopes that traits as such would assist a person in achieving their aspirations in life, and allows them to set a pathway to success.
He is also a strong belief as a Buddhist and Communist, by assisting each other and how anyone should have adequate chance in succeeding, but is obstructed by corruption of politics but also corruption of the system of life itself. In his interview, he often quotes his mother or brother stating:
“Otherwise, probably I would have been an arrogant middle-class Chinese, only caring about materialism, worldly pleasures, and fleshpot pleasures. When I am tempted, I think of what William went through. He sacrificed his life trying to help the underprivileged.”
Bibliography Bloomberg staff 19 July 2013- http://www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/2013-07-19/aaa/aaaxa Chanyaporn Chanjaroen & William Mellor Feb 1, 2013 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-31/billionaire-kuok-says-his-empire-can-last-generations-.html Peter Horsfield- 01 April 2013 -http://www.thextraordinary.org/robert-kuok Russell Flannery March 2013- http://www.forbes.com/profile/robert-kuok/