Meet Malaysia's Top 10 Real Estate Entrepreneurs In 2021!
When we think of the richest people in the world or entrepreneurial tycoons, who automatically comes to mind?
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and also the world’s richest man? Or perhaps Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, the second richest man in the world?
Not surprising really, but there are many entrepreneurs in Malaysia who are just on par and with a stellar financial standing too!
The well-known buildings, shopping malls, offices, and homes that we live in, work in, and pass by every day; odds are that they’re owned by these real estate entrepreneurs!
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 10 real estate entrepreneurs in Malaysia and their respective works of real estate projects.
*Note: The following rankings are based on real-time data from the Forbes Rich List as of April 10, 2021. The corresponding ages are also based on their ages in 2021.
1) Robert Kuok Hock Nien
- Place of birth: Johor Bahru, Johor
- Age: 98 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Cheras LeisureMall, The LINC KL
- Latest net worth: US$12.6 billion (approximately RM52.2 billion)
When people think of Robert Kuok, the first thought that comes to mind is ‘Sugar King’, due to his affluence in Malaysia’s sugar market for decades. However, he’s actually an entrepreneur who should be known as ‘Hotel King’ instead.
The Shangri-La Hotel Group, which he founded in 1971, owns 5 hotel brands and now owns more than 100 hotels around the world, positioning itself as a major symbol of the luxury hotel industry!
On the other hand, the Perlis Plantation Berhad Group (PBB Group), also founded by Kuok, built recognisable Malaysian developments like the well-known Cheras LeisureMall, Cheras Plaza, and high-end bungalows in Masera Bukit Segar.
In recent years, PBB Group has leapt into creative art and mural features, including those at The LINC KL, a retail mall located at the junction of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur.
Not just a mall, The LINC also presents itself as a business base for many local brands and has become a popular gathering centre for lovers of the local arts, artists, and youth exhibitions.
In terms of foreign property, he is the largest shareholder of Kerry Properties, listed in Hong Kong in 1996, and with significant investments in both Hong Kong and China.
Touted as a symbol of high-end brands, the properties under the company are mainly located in prosperous urban areas such as Beijing Kerry Center, Pudong Kerry City, etc.
Although he has settled down in Hong Kong for quite some time, he remains down-to-earth, as evident in his handwritten letter thanking employees for their dedication during the 70th anniversary of Kuok Brothers Limited.
2) Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor and Lee Yeow Seng
- Place of birth: Malaysia
- Age: 54 years old and 42 years old respectively
- Real estate development masterpieces: Puchong, IOI Mall, Bandar 16 Sierra, IOI City Mall
- Latest net worth: US$5.1 billion (approximately RM21.1 billion)
Successors of Malaysia’s late ‘Oil Palm King’ Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng, both brothers worked closely with their father while he was still alive to take over the business.
Since entering the company, they’ve contributed to business management and worked together to promote IOI Group.
When talking about real estate masterpieces from IOI Group, one cannot forget about the rapidly developing area of Puchong!
Formerly dotted with palm oil and rubber plantations, the area was successfully redeveloped into what is one of the most popular and integrated towns in Klang Valley today.
The maturity of the location also means excellent convenience and amenities, such as IOI Mall, schools, residential projects, industrial estates, office buildings, and a variety of facilities to suit all lifestyles.
Under IOI Group is IOI Properties, its industrial arm, and also one of the leading developers in Malaysia with internationally-renowned projects and a total land bank of 10,000 acres in Malaysia and abroad.
The group’s success is not limited to Malaysia, as they’ve seen excellent progress in business development in China, namely projects in Xiamen like IOI Yuanwan and IOI Palm City (Jimei).
Although relatively low-key, they appeared in the limelight in 2019 when Lee Yeow Seng tied the knot with Yeo Bee Yin, the former Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change under Pakatan Harapan, and current member of the DAP Bakri Parliament.
3) Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay
- Place of birth: Kepong, Kuala Lumpur
- Age: 69 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Genting Casino, Johor Premium Outlets, Genting Highlands Premium Outlets
- Latest net worth: US$2.8 billion (approximately RM11.6 billion)
Glitz, glam, and Genting Highlands. After the passing of Genting’s late founder, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, his second son, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, took over the family business and continued its expansions, reaching greater heights.
Consisting of not just casinos and family-friendly attractions, Genting’s business repertoire also includes overseas casinos, cruise lines, Genting Highlands Premium Outlet, and Johor Premium Outlet co-launched with the Simon Property Group.
Amidst the fun, one might even forget that Genting Group helms other businesses, such as real estate development.
Aside from the notable Genting Highlands, there’s also their flagship project, Genting Indahpura. The 7,000-acre integrated township is developed by their industrial arm in Kulai, Johor, and is poised to be another tourist attraction.
4) Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Francis Yeoh Sock Ping
- Place of birth: Klang, Selangor
- Age: 66 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Starhill Gallery, Sentul, KLPAC, The Fennel at Sentul East
- Latest net worth: US$1.7 billion (approximately RM7 billion)
The current head of YTL Corporation Berhad, the group’s achievements have been nothing but extraordinary.
Since its incorporation, the international organisation has diversified into businesses such as public utilities, cement, hotels, and real estate development.
Part of its accolades includes Starhill Gallery, a 7-storey high-end mall located in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle. One of YTL’s real estate representative works, it is owned by Starhill Global REIT, a YTL subsidiary.
Starhill Gallery is also known as the first project in Asia to break the boundaries of the retail and lodging industries.
From the mall, you can directly access the JW Marriot, a five-star hotel also under one of YTL’s subsidiaries, YTL Hospitality REIT.
In addition to that, there’s YTL Land & Development, another listed company under the group. It launched several real estate projects in Sentul in 2002 to bring a new, refreshed look to the area.
Among them, The Capers and The Fennel at Sentul East has won industry recognition for its unique architectural design.
5) Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah Fook Ling
- Place of birth: Pusing, Perak
- Age: 76 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Bandar Sunway, Sunway Velocity, Sunway Pyramid
- Latest net worth: US$1.4 billion (approximately RM5.8 billion)
It first started with the story of a derelict mining lake in Subang Jaya and the idea of breathing new life into it to build the eye-catching Bandar Sunway.
Back then, many laughed at his idea and called him a lunatic. But today, Sunway City is a town where more than 200,000 people live and work in.
The locale features famous landmarks such as Sunway Pyramid, Sunway Medical Center, Sunway Lagoon, and Sunway University.
Since then, Sunway Group has expanded its projects to include Sunway Velocity located in Cheras, covering a total area of over 1 million square feet.
The integrated development is only 3.8km away from the city centre and features serviced apartments, a shopping mall, business suites, and the Sunway Velocity Medical Centre nearby.
Besides real estate, Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah is also an active philanthropist who heavily promotes education.
To date, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation has allocated more than RM400 million in scholarships and grants to students and owns and manages all 16 educational institutions under it.
6) Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo
- Place of birth: Gombak, Kuala Lumpur
- Age: 65 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Bandar Malaysia, EkoCheras Mall
- Latest net worth: US$765 million (approximately RM3.2 billion
The founder of Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd, he is most prominently known for his company’s joint venture with the China Railway Group (CREC) to develop Bandar Malaysia.
That development is expected to become the largest, most comprehensive, and intelligent new city in the ASEAN region.
It will have a gross development value (GDV) of up to RM140 billion, the largest real estate development project in the history of Malaysia as of late.
As the company owns a land bank of at least 4,000 acres of land in the Iskandar Malaysia area of Johor, future real estate developments seem promising and well-awaited by the public.
Under his founding wing is also Ekovest Berhad, a listed company on the Bursa Securities and known for building EkoCheras Mall, an integrated development that includes serviced apartments, office suites, hotels, and is one of Cheras’ most recent landmarks.
7) Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun
- Place of birth: Batu Pahat, Johor
- Age: 69 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Berjaya Times Square, Berjaya Central Park, Bukit Jalil Golf & Country Resort
- Latest net worth: US$750 million (approximately RM3.1 billion)
With quite a diversified business, there’s no shortage of Berjaya Group’s representative works in the real estate industry.
The most popular, of course, would be Berjaya Times Square in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Known to all Malaysians, the development consists of a large shopping mall, two hotels, serviced apartments, and the largest indoor theme park in Malaysia.
Adding to their roster of successful developments is Berjaya Central Park, located in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle and comprising two buildings, one of which is Malaysia’s first Ritz-Carlton hotel apartment.
Aside from real estate, Berjaya Group is also known for owning the management rights of many internationally renowned brands, such as Starbucks, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Krispy Kreme, 7-11, Borders, etc.
Despite his plethora of wealth, he recently announced his decision to donate half of his wealth to charity upon his death, as a way of giving back to Malaysians and the country.
The group also made headlines with the appointment of a non-family member, Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed, as the corporation’s CEO, a first in company history.
8) Tan Sri Danny Tan Chee Sing
- Place of birth: Batu Pahat, Johor
- Age: 65 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Tropicana Gardens, Tropicana Golf and Country Resort
- Latest net worth: US$665 million (approximately RM2.8 billion)
Unbeknownst to many, Tan Sri Danny Tan is the younger brother of Tan Sri Vincent Tan! The founder of Tropicana Corporation Berhad, this well-known brand has won the hearts of many property buyers by focusing on strategic locations, spaces, and practical functions.
Compared to his older brother’s diversified development strategy, Tan Sri Danny Tan’s focus has, for many years, been on real estate and real estate only. Although he announced his retirement in 2015, he gradually returned to the company in 2019.
Of his many accomplishments, one would be the Tropicana Golf and Country Resort, the first residential project bearing the theme of resort life in Malaysia which won many awards.
Although the corporation has different industrial projects under their belt, they remain focused on offering the best in location and high-quality concepts.
One example would be the opening of the first W Hotels chain in Malaysia: The luxurious W Kuala Lumpur situated just a stone’s throw away from the Petronas Twin Towers.
Aside from that, there’s also Tropicana Gardens in Kota Damansara, a 17-acre mixed development that includes serviced apartments, a shopping mall, and office buildings for residents to live peacefully and conveniently.
9) Tan Sri Desmond Lim Siew Choon
- Place of birth: Malaysia
- Age: 61 years old
- Real estate development masterpieces: Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Pavilion Elite, Pavilion Bukit Jalil
- Latest net worth: US$470 million (approximately RM2 billion)
Despite being a wealthy Malaysian entrepreneur in industrial development, Tan Sri Desmond Lim has remained low-key for many years, although his projects like Pavilion Kuala Lumpur speak otherwise.
The luxury shopping mall in Bukit Bintang is an architectural landmark of the city centre, housing numerous luxury-brand stores and international chains.
As such, it is truly one of the best representative works of Malton Berhad, founded by himself and been public since 2002.
As Pavilion Plaza was built at a very low cost of less than RM500 per sqm, the investment proved fruitful because once the project was completed in 2008, the land price had risen by more than 3 times, along with his net worth!
More than real estate, it was reported that in August 2020, there was talk of acquiring the well-known Chinese restaurant chain group, Oversea Enterprise Bhd (OEB), as part of the company’s diversifying business.
In December 2020, he acquired Plaza Batai in Damansara Heights to be demolished and developed into serviced apartments, close to his Pavilion Damansara Heights project.
10) Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin
- Place of birth: Masai, Johor
- Age: 63 years old
- Representative real estate development works: Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC), Eco Grandeur, Setia Alam
- Latest net worth: Unknown
In Malaysia’s real estate sector, Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin is lauded as one of the most courageous and aspiring entrepreneurs.
One of his achievements is Setia Alam, a well-known, award-winning, comprehensive development in Shah Alam built by SP Setia Berhad, which he led in his early years.
Not long after, the Setia Group was launched but due to conflicts, he left the company and together with several members of his old team, built Eco World Development Group Berhad in just a short amount of time.
Under his leadership, EcoWorld has flourished, with their key project in recent years being the Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) located in the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur.
The development will offer modern business offices, retail shopping, living quarters, hotel dining, and leisure entertainment connecting urban communities.
Despite hitting a roadblock in the form of a failed merger between EcoWorld and UEM Sunrise Berhad, this did not detract from the company’s development plan and in fact, motivated them to continue to build and provide high-quality projects.