Who will continue Quek Leng Chan’s Legacy?
January 15, 2021
The Kwek/Quek family dynasty that is behind Asia’s Hong Leong Group conglomerate is ranked by Forbes Asia magazine as one of the top 10 richest families in Asia. Two cousins, Kwek Leng Beng and Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan, control the dynamic global Hong Leong Group’s operations, the former in Singapore and the latter on this side of the Causeway. They have siblings and cousins on boards of their companies but the two head honchos helm their respective territories and operations. There are vestige cross shareholdings in the private entities that control the Singapore and Malaysian headquartered Hong Leong Group operations but the Group had split in the 1980s. Kwek Leng Beng and Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan have independently charted the destinies of their respective Hong Leong Group of companies. They are powerful cousins. Both are London trained lawyers. Leng Beng received his LLB from the University of London and Leng Chan was a barrister-at-law from Middle Temple. Both are born in 1941 and by 2021 will be octogenarians. They represent the dynamic second generation Hong Leong entrepreneurs in their own endeavours to expand the original family business founded by Kwek Hong Png.
The difference now is this – who is going to continue Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan’s legacy in Malaysia? Other than Quek Sue Yian, 45, daughter of Tan Sri Quek, who is a director of Hong Leong Industries Berhad since 2017 (she does not sit on any Committee) there are no other children of the Tan Sri on boards of the Hong Leong Group. Sue Yian is a barrister-at-law from Middle Temple, London and holds a Master of Science in Poverty Reduction and Development Management from University of Birmingham. There was for a relatively brief period the appointment of Quek Kon Sean, a son of Tan Sri Quek to the Boards of Hong Leong Financial Group Berhad, Hong Leong Bank Berhad and Hong Leong Capital Berhad, but he resigned on 9 July 2016 from all his directorships.
Across the Causeway, Kwek Leng Beng’s elder son, Sherman Kwek, is CEO of listed City Developments Limited, the property and hotel holding arm of Hong Leong group Singapore, and apparent successor to the family business. Sherman’s cousin, Eik Sheng, son of Kwek Leng Joo (Leng Beng’s late younger brother) is Executive Director of the hotel arm, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Limited.
Hong Leong Group Malaysia
Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan controls 9 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia including investment trust company, Tower REIT ( Tower Real Estate Investment Trust). He chairs Hong Leong Financial Group Berhad (HLFG) the banking and financial services arm of the Hong Leong Group which includes listed Hong Leong Bank Berhad and Hong Leong Capital Berhad. The industrial portfolio of Bursa Malaysia listed companies controlled by Hong Leong Group is chaired by the Tan Sri’s younger brother, Datuk Kwek Leng San, 65. The companies are Hong Leong Industries Berhad, Hume Industries Berhad, Malaysian Pacific Industries Berhad and Southern Steel Berhad. Datuk Kwek is also a Director of Hong Leong Company (Malaysia) Berhad and Hong Leong Foundation, both public companies. GuocoLand (Malaysia) Berhad, the Bursa Malaysia listed property arm of the Hong Leong Group and a subsidiary of Singapore listed GuocoLand Limited, is chaired by a non-family member, Raymond Choong Yee How, 65, since 2018.
Coming soon to age 80 in 2021 has not stopped Tan Sri Quek from his appetite for acquisitions. In September 2019, the Hong Leong Group and TPG, a global investment firm headquartered in San Francisco California and Fort Worth Texas with approximately US$85 billion in assets under management, announced the joint venture to acquire Columbia Asia Hospitals in Southeast Asia for US$1.2 billion (RM5 billion). The deal covers 17 Columbia Asia Hospitals and 1 clinic located in Malaysia (12 hospitals), Indonesia (3 hospitals) and Vietnam (2 hospitals and 1 clinic).
Substantial shareholder of HLFG
As at 28 August 2020, Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan is deemed interested in 77.88% of the shares of Hong Leong Financial Group Berhad.
Hong Leong founder
Hong Leong Company (Hong Leong Co) was founded in Singapore as a general trading firm in 1941 by Kwek Hong Png, father of Kwek Leng Beng, and uncle of Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan. Kwek Hong Png came to Singapore from Fujian province, China at the age of 16. He named the group Hong Leong which in Chinese means a company with high growth potential and abundance of opportunities to grow from strength to strength. He invited his three brothers, Hong Khai, Hong Lye (Leng Chan’s father) and Hong Leong to come to Singapore to join in the business and gave shares to them so it was a true family business. The end of the war led to decades of prosperity and the Hong Leong Group acquired land banks and also diversified into finance, property and hotel development, while growing in the industrial sector.
Hong Lye’s son, Leng Chan, spearheaded the Hong Leong Group’s venture into Malaysia in the mid-1960s. The Group had no banking licence in Singapore and so Leng Chan was determined to acquire a bank in Malaysia, amongst other ambitions. He was only in his late 20s when he crossed the Causeway. Other wealthy members of the Kwek clan were not keen. The banking ambition crystallised in 1994 when Tan Sri Quek acquired MUI Bank Berhad and its entire branch network from Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng of MUI Group. MUI Bank was renamed it Hong Leong Bank Berhad (HLBB). In 2011 HLBB expanded its branch network in a merger with EON Bank Group. Today HLBB is Malaysia’s fifth largest banking group by assets with over RM220 billion in assets as at 30 June 2020, and 4th largest by market capitalisation as at the same date.
Founder Kwek Hong Png has two sons, elder son Leng Beng and younger son Leng Joo. Leng Beng took over the reins in 1984 when his father retired and he is instrumental in building up Hong Leong Group Singapore together with Leng Joo. Hong Leong Group Singapore today is a globally diversified company with gross assets of over S$40 billion. Its four core businesses are property development, hotels, financial services and trade & industry. Kwek Leng Joo passed away of a heart attack at the age of 62 in November 2015. Leng Joo’s son, Kwek Eik Sheng, 38, is now Executive Director of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Limited (since November 2019 after its privatisation exercise). The Millennium & Copthorne owns 145 hotels globally. Eik Sheng Holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and a Master of Philosophy in Finance from Judge Business School, Cambridge University.
While Leng Beng is Executive Chairman of Singapore listed City Developments Limited (CDL), the holding company for Hong Leong Singapore’s real estate and hotel investments, his elder son, Sherman Kwek Eik Tse, 44, is the CEO of CDL since January 2018. Sherman Kwek graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, majoring in Finance and Marketing. Kwek Leng Beng is concurrently Chairman of Hong Leong Asia Ltd. (HLA) and London-listed Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc (M&C). He is also the Chairman and Managing Director of Hong Leong Finance Limited (HLF) and Hong Kong-listed City e-Solutions Limited (CES), and Executive Chairman of Hong Leong Group Singapore. Leng Beng’s younger son, Kingston Kwek, runs his own private venture capital firm.
In a recent event that shocked the corporate community in Singapore, Leng Beng’s cousin, Kwek Leng Peck, 64, resigned from the Board of CDL after more than 30 years as a director citing disagreement with board and management decisions in relation to the group's investment in Sincere Property Group in China as well as reservations with regard to the management of the UK based hotel group.
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