One of the richest overseas ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia was born in Singapore on January 13 in the year 1917. His name was Khoo Teck Puat, the co-founder of Malaya Banking (Maybank) and at one point was the richest in Singapore with a net worth of $2.6 billion.
Khoo was the son of a wealthy landlord and trader. In the 1930s, Khoo studied at St. Joseph‘s Institution, an independent Catholic school for all boys. However, he got married early and dropped out of school at the age of 17. Later, he got employed as clerk at the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), a bank that his father helped organized. At the bank, he rose to become deputy general manager but a dispute with higher bank officials led to his resignation.
In 1960, Khoo formed the Malayan Banking Berhad (now Maybank) which grew to become Malaysia’s largest company in terms of market capitalization. When Singapore de-merged from Malaysia in 1965, Khoo was booted out of the board but managed to buy out the bank’s properties in Singapore including the historic Goodwood Park Hotel. He went on to buy a portfolio of hotels in London and in Australia. He also founded National Bank of Brunei which was closed in the 1980s due to mismanagement and other alleged fraudulent transactions. To settle the legal dispute with the Bruneian government, he sold the Australian hotel. Though his own arrest did not prosper, his son was not so lucky for he was imprisoned for two years.
To thwart the attempt of Lloyds Bank to buy Standard Chartered Bank in 1986, Khoo made a spectacular bid and successfully picked up 5% stake. Later, this was increased to 11.55% but the whole lot was acquired by Singapore Government-owned Temasek Holdings in 2006 for $4 billion.
Khoo died of heart attack in 2004 at the age of 87. He married twice and had 14 children.