On this day, October 6 in the year 1923, one of the most successful overseas Chinese was born in Johor, Malaysia. His name is Robert Kuok Hock Nien, the man behind various businesses such as Shangri-la Hotels and Wilmar Trading.
Robert Kuok was the youngest of three sons of a Chinese immigrant who became rich as an agricultural commodities trader in Malaysia. He attended Raffles College in Singapore where he was a classmate of Lee Kuan Yew. He started working for Mitsubishi Trading during the war period. When his father died in 1948, he and his brothers formed Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd to continue the family trading business. His fortunes soared when he bought great quantities of sugar from India at depressed prices and sold them to Malaysia, pocketing huge profits. Soon, he gained control of 80% of the Malaysian sugar market, thus earning the moniker “sugar king”.
In 1962, Robert Kuok entered the flour milling industry. He went on to establish sugar plantations under the Perlis Group which in 1972, became a publicly-listed company. At present, the group is engaged in agriculture, waste management, film distribution, and property development. It has a substantial stake in Wilmar International, the world’s largest trader in palm oil.
In 1971, Robert Kuok built his first high-end Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore. This was followed by the opening of the Shangri-La Hong Kong in 1977. Operating under Kerry Holdings which was founded in 1974, the chain has almost a hundred hotels and resorts in major cities and tourist destinations all over the world. In 1993, Robert acquired a 34.9% stake in the South China Morning Post from Rupert Murdoch. He has many other investments including Coca-Cola bottling and real estate development in China, shipping, air transportation, mining, and finance.
Robert Kuok married twice and has 8 children. According forbes.com, his net worth is $11.1 billion, down from a high of $17 billion in 2017.