From Real Estate To Banking: How These 7 S’porean Families Built Up Billion-Dollar Bizs

It is common knowledge that Singapore is the richest city in the world. Home to 44 billionaires in the last census, the island is home to a growing number of tycoons who literally own the land you walk on.

Taking advantage of the economic opportunities of as long ago as the post-independence period, these conglomerates exploit almost all aspects of the industry; from banking to real estate and fashion.

With almost unlimited wealth, here are 7 Singaporean families who manage almost everything behind the scenes.

1. Kwek / Quek family: Hong Leong Group

The Kwek family owns the Hong Leong group and has a net worth of more than US $ 23.3 billion, ranking 7th.e on the Forbes list of the richest families in Asia.

Kwek Leng Bend  g
Image credits: The Peak Singapore

Immigrant from Fujian, Kwek Hong Png created the Hong Leong Group as a general trading company in 1941.

During World War II, Kwek took advantage of the demand for industrialization and extended Hong Leong to new verticals.

Today, the conglomerate has more than 300 companies and has gross assets of more than $ 40 billion.

Its portfolio includes financing and real estate development, such as Sentosa Cove and the Millennium and Copthorne hotels.

Currently, more than 15 family members control the group. Kwek’s oldest son and heir, Leng Beng, directs operations in Singapore while his cousin Quek Leng Chan directs operations in Malaysia.

2. Ng family: organization of the Far East

The Ng family owns Far East Organization (FEO) and its Hong Kong subsidiary, Sino Group, with a total net worth of $ 9.7 billion.

Image credits: Asiaone

Immigrant from Fujian, China, Ng Teng Fong launched FEO in 1960. The company quickly diversified its portfolio in the real estate sector, developing in the development of housing and hotels, department stores, finance. and more.

Ng earned the nickname “King of Orchard Road”, becoming the largest private landowner in Singapore in 1980.

Today, OEM is developing high-end real estate in Singapore and Hong Kong, such as the Fullerton Hotel and Orchard Central.

Ng’s heirs, Robert and Philip, succeeded their father in the 1990s and are loyal Christians who call OTF a “Christian enterprise”.

3. Wee Family: United Overseas Bank (UOB)

The Wee family has a net worth of 6.25 billion US dollars, derived from its stakes in United Overseas Bank (UOB) and its subsidiaries.

Wee Ee Cheong
Image credits: Bloomberg

The UOB was created by Wee Kheng Chiang, a Sarawak-based businessman in 1935. His son, Wee Cho Yaw took over as general manager in 1960.

Under Cho Yaw, UOB expanded its vertical markets and aggressively acquired smaller banks, becoming the second largest banking group in Singapore and Malaysia in 1971.

In 2001, UOB overtook DBS and acquired the Overseas Union Bank to become Singapore’s largest bank.

Currently, UOB remains the third largest bank in Singapore, headed by Ee Cheong, the third generation successor to the Wee family.

UOB currently has 500 offices in 19 countries on 3 continents, holding more than $ 388 billion in assets according to a 2018 report. The family also controls Haw Par, maker of Tiger Balm.

4. Kwee family: Pontiac Land Group

The Kwee family controls Pontiac Land Group (PLG) and has a net worth of 5.3 billion US dollars.

Image credits: Forbes

Another Fujian immigrant, Henry Kwee Hian Liong was a Sino-Indonesian textile trader and property developer who founded PLG in 1961.

Hian Long’s four sons inherited his estates and continue to manage the family business jointly.

Today, PLG develops luxury hotels and office towers, with properties such as the Millenia and Centennial towers, The Club Residences, The Ritz Carlton and hotel complexes in the Maldives.

The third generation of Kwees is prepared to take over. Evan Kwee, the only son of the President of Pontiac, Kwee Liong Tek, heads the Capella Hotel Group Asia as Executive Director.

5. Choo Family: hotel 81

The Choo family runs the Worldwide Hotels Group, which has a net worth of $ 3.2 billion.

Image credits: Singapore Tatler

The Worldwide Hotels Group has brands such as Hotel 81, Swiss-Garden Kuala Lumpur and Ibis Hotel Brisbane.

In 1993, Singapore-based Choo Chong Ngen launched Hotel 81, the largest and most famous budget hotel chain in Singapore’s red light district. Choo has grown rapidly and developed hotels across the Asia-Pacific.

The hotel chain owned by Choo was eventually renamed the Worldwide Hotel Group, offering a variety of hotels for different budget points.

Choo’s children are prepared to take over the group, with Carolyn Choo, the second of her daughters, as CEO and General Manager of the Worldwide Hotels Group.

6. Kumar family: Royal Holdings & RB Capital

Raj Kumar and Kishin RK are a father and son duo who own Royal Holdings and RB Capital respectively, with a combined net worth of US $ 2.7 billion.

Image credits: Knight Frank

Founded in 1947, Royal Holdings was managed by Kumar and his brother until the split of the two in 2012.

Originally a textile company, the company developed into commercial units in the 1980s and made the front page with the acquisition of hotel domains in the 1990s.

Following in Kumar’s footsteps, Kishin created RB Capital in 2006 using the proceeds from the sale of an apartment that his parents had offered him.

Father and son are now cooperating on their real estate projects as one of the few non-Chinese tycoons in Singapore.

Royal Holdings and RB Capital manage areas such as Holiday Inn in Queenstown in Australia and Intercontinental Hotel in Robertson Quay.

7. Ong family: Hotel Properties Limited & COMO Group

Christina Ong and Ong Beng Seng are a married couple who own Hotel Properties Limited and the COMO group, for a net worth of US $ 1.7 billion.

Image credits: Vulcan Post

Founded by Ong in 1980, Hotel Properties Limited has grown into a global company managing luxury hotels and other properties.

This includes brands like Four Seasons and Hilton Hotels, Hard Rock Cafe and Paddington Square in London. In 2007, Ong also reached an agreement to bring the Formula 1 race to Singapore.

Christina heads the COMO group, made up of hotel, fashion and wellness brands. The group manages companies like Club 21 and COMO Hotels and Resorts.

Property development and management is a common theme among billion dollar Singapore families. This is not surprising, given the notoriously high prices for real estate in a dense city-state.

With the next generation prepared for recovery after an average of over 40 years in the industry, succession remains a defining moment for family dynasties.

A mixture of new and old money, the common thread that links these families is a keen business sense that has allowed their fortunes to stand the test of time.

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post

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Jothi Venkat

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