This Multimillionaire Family Built S’pore Landmarks For 4 Gens
Gardens By The Bay, Jewel Changi Airport, MRT stations, and shopping malls are probably images that pop up in people’s minds when Singapore is mentioned.
These world-famous monuments – and many more – are the work of a family business that has been in existence for almost a century.
Woh Hup Holdings was founded by Yong Yit Lin in 1927, when Singapore was still under British colonial rule.
The Chinese immigrant arrived in Malaysia in 1913 at the age of 16, and took odd jobs before venturing into construction.
His big break came in the 1920s, when he was hired to build garden fences and posts for Negeri Sembilan’s British resident, Ernest Wolff.
Ernest was impressed with his work, which required Yong to bid on government construction projects in Singapore.
Since then, the business has grown and evolved with the city and has helped shape Singapore’s landscape every step of the way.
From prisons to tourist attractions and luxury condominiums
According to Woh Hup Holdings, some of his first major construction projects included Clifford Pier in 1933 and Changi Prison in 1936.
The pier has since ceased operations in 2006 and has been replaced with a restaurant under the Fullerton Bay Hotel.
However, many of the Yong family’s other construction projects are still strong today.
In 1974, the construction giant completed the 17-story Golden Mile Complex, one of Singapore’s first mixed-use developments.
He also built Great World City which houses a shopping center, office towers and apartments.
As the company entered the 2000s, it began building more luxury developments such as Reflections at Keppel Bay, Gardens by the Bay, and Jewel Changi Airport.
Woh Hup also has bases in Myanmar and Indonesia and has been undertaking projects overseas since the 1950s.
Its current projects include luxury condominiums and new MRT stations in Singapore.
Overcome the curse of the “third generation”
Since its founding in 1927, the private company has been run solely by the Yong family.
Woh Hup’s executive director, Eugene Yong, has joined the company since 1980. His father, Yong Nam Seng, is the company president, while his older brother, Kim Yong Tiam Yoon, is the vice president.
Today, the fourth generation is preparing to take the reins and lead the business.
According to a 2016 PwC Global Family Business Survey, only 3% of family businesses reach the fourth generation, leading to the ‘third generation curse’.
Michelle Yong, one of the company’s new fourth generation leaders, was intrigued by the ‘curse’ and wrote a thesis on the subject while completing her Masters in Economics at the University of Oxford.
The third generation has done incredibly well; they (have) overcome the curse. So those of us in the fourth generation had better not drop the ball. I want to help us grow in many different areas.
Michelle Yong, head of Aurum, in an interview with Tatler
Her interest in the subject served her well, as she was commissioned by her father to run Aurum, a wholly owned subsidiary that focuses on boutique residential properties.
Aurum is part of Woh Hup’s strategy to diversify its markets and ensure sustainable longevity for the company.
Beyond real estate development, Aurum now includes a venture capital fund – Aurum Investments – and Core Collective, a collaborative fitness and well-being community and a co-working center.
She also launched the Found8 co-working space, as part of a collaboration between Collision 8, the co-working brand that she launched under Aurum, and Found.
Go beyond real estate development
According to The Straits Times, Woh Hup’s revenue for the year through June 30, 2018 was $ 1.1 billion and his net income was $ 51.8 million.
More recent data is not available, but at the start of this year Bloomberg estimates the family is worth around US $ 600 million (S $ 800 million).
The company also contributes to various philanthropic causes.
The Woh Hup Trust was founded in 2011 and provides financial support to the elderly and disadvantaged children.
It also has various sustainability initiatives to help build an environmentally conscious culture.
According to Eugene Yong, business values such as integrity and social responsibility are strong factors that have contributed to its success today.
“Most businesses, of course, want to grow, but especially these days the circumstances are really hard to predict. We must therefore be careful and not exceed ourselves too much, ”he said in an interview.
Featured Image Credit: Visit Singapore,
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