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The Business Empire of Asia’s Ultra-Rich: Khoo Teck Phuat

In my Asian Godfather series, I’m looking into the history of some of the wealthiest self-made business tycoons in our region here in Southeast Asia. This edition brings me to the history of Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat, who used to be one of Singapore’s richest men before he passed away.

His legacy in Singapore is still felt, from a statue of him in Goodwood Park Hotel to the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (sponsored by his family) in Yishun.

The Beginning

Khoo Teck Puat was educated in St. Joseph’s Institution (a secondary school that still exists today!) in Singapore in the early 1930’s. However, he was unable to finish his education and at age 17, ended up working for a bank that was to become the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation of today. At that time, his family was one of the major shareholders but he had slowly worked his way up through the ranks and was even serving as the Chairman of the Board of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) at one point.

In the 1960s, Khoo had decided to start something of his own. He co-founded Malayan Banking Berhad (now known as Maybank and currently the largest bank in Malaysia). The bank grew rapidly but unfortunately, Khoo lost control of it a few years later as the Malaysian government had bought out his stake in the bank.

Fortunately, he managed to buy back most of Maybank’s Singapore-based assets, which included the Goodwood Park Hotel. He then went on to start-up the National Bank of Brunei. He continued to manage the bank until 1986 when he lost control of the bank to the Royal Family of Brunei.

White Knight

As luck would have it, Khoo invested into the banking giant Standard Chartered (LSE: STAN) in 1986 during a time when the bank was trying to fend off a hostile takeover attempt by Lloyd’s Bank. Khoo’s investment –  commonly known as a “White Knight” move – helped Standard Chartered defend itself against the hostile raider, Lloyd’s Bank. He kept his stake in the bank until his death in 2004; at that time he owned slightly more than 10% of Standard Chartered.

Foolish Summary

His family sold off Khoo’s stake in Standard Chartered to Temasek Holdings in 2006. On hindsight, it had been a great time to sell as the world fell into a global financial crisis just a couple of years later. The Khoo family continues to be one of the wealthiest in Singapore.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Stanley Lim doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.