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#418 Lee Shin Cheng $4.55B

Random fact: Lost status as largest palm oil grower after Sime Darby merger.

Overview

Lee is the founder and chairman of palm oil supplier IOI Group, which sells its products to more than 85 countries. The Putrajaya, Malaysia-based conglomerate has at least 180,000 hectares of land planted with oil palms and more than 30,000 employees. The company reported revenue of RM11.7 billion ($2.9 billion) in 2016.

As of July 28, 2017:
Last change +$15.1M (+0.3%)
YTD change +$170M (+3.9%)
Industry Commodities
Biggest asset IOI MK Equity
Citizenship Malaysia
Age 78
Wealth Self-made
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Lee Shin Cheng's net worth of $4.55B can buy ...

0
troy ounces of gold
0
barrels of crude oil

... and is equivalent to ...

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of the GDP of the United States
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of the total wealth of the 500 richest people in the world
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of the top 100 U.S. college endowments
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of the top 200 U.S. executives’ total awarded compensation
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of U.S. existing home sales
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times the median U.S. household income

Latest News

Net Worth Summary

Cash
Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

The majority of Lee's fortune is derived from his stake in IOI Corp., a palm-oil producer that sells its products to more than 85 countries, according to the company's website. The conglomerate, with more than 30,000 employees, has at least 180,322 hectares of land planted with oil palms and reported revenue of RM11.7 billion ($2.9 billion) in 2016, according to its 2016 annual report. 

The billionaire and his family own 48 percent of the publicly traded company directly and through Vertical Capacity, a Putrajaya, Malaysia-based holding company. The stake includes the shares held by his six children and wife, according to IOI's filings to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange. Lee is credited with the entire stake to reflect his status as chairman and founder.

IOI spun off its real estate assets in 2013 as IOI Properties Group, which began trading publicly on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange on Jan. 15, 2014. Lee and his family own about 61 percent of IOI Properties, according to June 2017 filings. Shares of both companies that are pledged have been excluded from his net worth calculation.

The value of his cash holdings is based on an analysis of dividends, insider transactions, taxes and market performance.

Karen Liew, a spokeswoman at IOI in Kuala Lumpur, did not respond to requests seeking confirmation of the billionaire's holdings.

Biography

Birthdate: 6/3/1939
Family: Married, 6 children
Education:

Lee Shin Cheng grew up on a rubber plantation in Kuala Selangor, in Malaysia's central Selangor state. At age 11, he left school to sell ice cream on a bicycle at palm oil and rubber estates to help support his family. Four years later, he was able to return to his studies and finish high school. 

After working his way up to a manager's position at a small palm oil plantation by 1961, Lee lost his job when the company was broken up and sold. For a year, he ran a pig farm with one of his friends until it closed down because the animals had become infected with swine fever. With the money he was able to recover, he started a gas station and worked part-time at another plantation.

Lee was turned down for a job at palm oil company Dunlop Estates in the late 1960s due to his poor English. Instead, he went to another palm oil company where he developed his hands-on management style by working as a field supervisor. About two decades later, he became the owner of same estate that wouldn't employ him when he bought it from Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd.

Lee gained control of Industrial Oxygen Incorporated, a gas company listed on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, in 1982. He moved into property development with the purchase of three companies two years later. Industrial Oxygen made its first move into plantations in 1985 by acquiring a business and land for oil-palm cultivation. Lee renamed the company IOI a decade later.

Lee's six children all work for the company. IOI spun off its real estate assets in 2013 as IOI Properties Group, which went public on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange on Jan. 15, 2014. His property business has expanded to Singapore and China since 2011, building high-end condominium and commercial projects.

Milestones
  • 1969 Industrial Oxygen is incorporated.
  • 1980 Industrial Oxygen is listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.
  • 1994 IOI acquires controlling interest in IOI Properties.
  • 1994 Creates a foundation that he names Yayasan Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng.
  • 1995 Renames Industrial Oxygen to IOI Corp.
  • 1997 Enters oleochemical business with an acquisition.
  • 2003 Acquires Unipamol Malaysia and Pamol Plantation from Unilever.
  • 2007 Makes foray into Indonesian palm oil by investing with Harita Group.
  • 2009 IOI buys out and delists its real estate unit.
  • 2014 Listed IOI Properties after planter spins off its real estate assets.