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Robert Kuok Hock Nien (simplified Chinese: 郭鹤年; traditional Chinese: 郭鶴年; pinyin: Guō Hènián; born 6 October 1923), is a Malaysian business magnate and investor. According to Forbes, his net worth is estimated at $12.8 billion as of March 2019, making him the wealthiest person in Malaysia[1][2] and 104th wealthiest in the world.[3] As of April 2019, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kuok has an estimated net worth of $18.4 billion, making him the 53rd richest person in the world.[4]

Robert Kuok
Native name
郭鹤年
Born
Kuok Hock Nien

(1923-10-06) 6 October 1923 (age 95)
ResidenceHong Kong[1]
Other namesSugar King, King of Cooking Oil
CitizenshipMalaysia[1]
OccupationChairman, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Chain
Net worthUS$12.8 billion (March 2019)[1]
Spouse(s)Joyce Cheah (deceased)
Ho Poh Lin, 謝碧蓉
Children8
RelativesKuok Khoon Hong (first cousin once removed)

Robert Kuok is media-shy; most of his businesses are privately held by him or his family. Apart from a multitude of businesses in Malaysia, his companies have investments in many countries throughout Asia.[5] His business interests range from sugarcane plantations (Perlis Plantations Bhd), sugar refineries, flour milling, animal feed, oil, mining, finance, hotel (Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts), property, trading, freight and publishing.[1] His biggest source of wealth is a stake in Wilmar International, the world's largest listed palm oil trader company.[6]

BiographyEdit

Kuok was born on 6 October 1923,[4] in Johor Bahru to a Malaysian Chinese family. Kuok's father arrived in Malaya from Fujian, China, at the beginning of the 20th century, and Robert was the youngest of three brothers. He grew up speaking his parents' Chinese Fuzhou dialect, English and Japanese during Japan's wartime occupation of Malaya. He studied at Raffles Institution, where he was classmates with Lee Kuan Yew,[7] and English College Johore Bahru.

According to Kuok himself, he began in business as an office boy, and later started a business with relatives' support.[5] Upon graduation, he became a collaborator and worked as a clerk in the rice-trading department of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha during the Japanese occupation period between 1942 and 1945, in Singapore, a conglomerate that with the help of Japanese military unit monopolized the rice trade in Malaya during the occupation period. He was soon promoted to head the rice-trading department. After the war, he took the skills he learned from the occupying force to the family's business in Johor.[8]

Kuok senior died in 1948, and Kuok and his two brothers and a cousin Kuok Hock Chin founded Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd in 1949, trading agricultural commodities. Kuok's relationship with the Japanese continued after Malaya gained independence. In 1959, Kuok formed Malayan Sugar Manufacturing Co. Bhd. together with two prominent Japanese partners. He also brought many influential Malay elite into his company as directors and shareholders, including politicians and royalty.[citation needed] In 1961, he bought cheap sugar from India before the prices shot up,and continued to invest heavily in sugar refineries, at one time controlling 80% of the Malaysian sugar market with production of 1.5 million tonnes, equivalent to 10% of world production, earning himself the nickname "Sugar King of Asia."

In 1971, he built the first Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore. His first foray into Hong Kong property was in 1977, when he acquired a plot of land on the newly reclaimed Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront, where he built his second hotel, the Kowloon Shangri-La. In 1993, his Kerry Group acquired a 34.9% stake in the South China Morning Post from Murdoch's News Corporation. Kuok officially retired from the Kerry Group on 1 April 1993.

His companies have investments in many countries, including Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Mainland China, Indonesia, Fiji, and Australia. Businesses in China include 10 bottling companies for Coca-Cola and ownership of the Beijing World Trade Centre.[5]

Freight interests include Malaysian Bulk Carriers Berhad and Transmile Group.

His political influence is attested by his having been selected as one of the Hong Kong Affairs Advisors in the run-up to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong, and his minority stake in CITIC Pacific. He was also instrumental in conveying information and setting up the meetings between Malaysian and Chinese governments leading to full diplomatic cross recognition of the two countries.

In 2007, Kuok combined his plantations, edible oil, and grains businesses with Wilmar International, making it the world's biggest palm-oil processor.[9]

On 31 October 2009, PPB Group under the flagship of Robert Kuok issued a statement to the Bursa Malaysia that it had decided to dispose of its sugar units along with land used to cultivate sugar cane for RM 1.29 billion to FELDA. The sales resulted in a one-off gain for the company.

In February 2014, Kuok's Singapore-based oil services company PACC Offshore Services Holdings (POSH) started pre-IPO talks with investors to list on the Singapore Stock Exchange to raise $400 million.[10]

Kuok lives in Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong island.

In May 2018, Kuok was appointed to the Council of Eminent Persons along with Tun Daim Zainuddin, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Merican and Jomo Kwame Sundaram.[11]

FamilyEdit

Robert Kuok's brother, Philip Kuok Hock Khee was a former Malaysian Ambassador to Germany, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark. Philip married Eileen Kuok and had two sons and two daughters. Another brother, William, was a member of the Malayan Communist Party and was killed during the Malayan Emergency in 1952.[12][13]

Kuok is married twice and has eight children.[9] Robert Kuok's son, Kuok Khoon Ean born in 1955 married Kuok Cheng Sui and holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nottingham, England. His other son, Kuok Khoon Ho is the chairman of Kuok Brothers, born in 1951 and holds a bachelor's degree from McGill University, Canada. Kuok Hui Kwong, his daughter, is the managing director and chief executive of SCMP Group and chairperson of Shangri-La Asia.[13][14]

One of his sons, Kuok Khoon Ean, handles most of the day-to-day operations of his businesses. He currently resides in Kuala Lumpur.

His nephew, Kuok Khoon Hong is the chairman of Wilmar International, and one of the richest people in Singapore.[15] Kuok Khoon Hong's father, Kuok Hock Swee, was an older cousin of Robert Kuok.[16]

His grand-nephew, Kuok Meng Ru, is in the music retail industry, owning Swee Lee music company. [17]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Forbes profile: Robert Kuok". Forbes. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Robert Kuok still Malaysia's richest man". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  3. ^ "The World Billionaire". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Bloomberg Billionaires Index". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Secretive billionaire forsakes retirement, The Standard, 14 September 1993.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Malaysia's Sugar King Kuok has gone global - Business News - The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  7. ^ Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: 'The greatest Chinese outside mainland China'
  8. ^ Annabelle R. Gambe. Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurship and Capitalist Development in Southeast Asia, p 94. Lit Verlag Munster, 1999.
  9. ^ a b "Bloomberg Billionaires Index - Robert Kuok". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Kuok-owned offshore firm in talks for 400m Singapore dollars. IPO". Oil Patch Asia. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  11. ^ hermesauto (12 May 2018). "Who's who in Mahathir's new Cabinet and Council of Elders". straitstimes.com. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  12. ^ Laut, Stulang (4 January 2012). "The world's shrewdest businessman – Founder of Shangri-La Mr. Kuok | Kita We 我們". Stulanglaut.wordpress.com. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Asian magnate Robert Kuok, 89, will let others worry about succession". Washington Post. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  14. ^ "BRIEF-Shangri-La Asia says Kuok hui kwong will assume position of chairman of board". Reuters. 26 September 2016. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  15. ^ Chanyaporn Chanjaroen; William Mellor (1 February 2013). "Billionaire Kuok Says His Empire Can Last 'Generations'". Bloomberg.
  16. ^ Mahathir's 94-year-old top adviser rekindles China connections
  17. ^ "Kuok Meng Ru and His Sweet New Version of Swee Lee". Prestige Online - Society’s Luxury Authority. Retrieved 10 December 2017.