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#420 Lee Shin Cheng $4.57B

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


Lee is the founder and chairman of IOI Group, a seller of palm-oil 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 ($2.8 billion) in 2016.

As of May 21, 2018:
Last change +$52.4M (+1.2%)
YTD change +$150M (+3.4%)
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 $4.57B can buy ...

troy ounces of gold
barrels of crude oil

... and is equivalent to ...

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

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Net Worth Summary

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 and has more than 30,000 employees, according to the company's website. The conglomerate has at least 180,322 hectares of land planted with oil palms and reported revenue of RM11.7 billion ($2.8 billion) in 2016, according to its 2016 annual report. 

The billionaire and his family own 49 percent of the publicly traded company directly and through Vertical Capacity, a Putrajaya, Malaysia-based holding company, according to a November 2017 filing to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange. The stake includes the shares held by his six children and wife. 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 owns about 62 percent of IOI Properties directly and through two holding companies, Vertical Capacity and Summervest, and family members, according to an October 2017 filing. 

He's collected RM4.2 billion ($1.1 billion) in dividends and had a net outflow of $505 million from share sales and purchases through December 2017, according to company filings and an analysis of Bloomberg data. The value of his cash investments is based on these cash flows, taxes, market performance and charitable giving.

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


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

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.

  • 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.