Asia’s richest families

AFTER a poll conducted among global expatriates, Singapore was adjudged for the nth time (4th consecutive time) the most expensive city to live in. Flying to Singapore three times in a period of five days the past week because of my regular family business advisory work is a normal itinerary for me every month. This just goes to show that as a hub, it’s really living up to its name as the destination of choice for practically all kinds of business in Asia.

Singapore pride

This compels me to link this exciting city-state to the myriad of opportunities that the market reciprocated to two siblings/tycoons. I am referring to siblings Robert and Philip Ng, Singapore’s richest duo and principals of Far East Organisation and Sino Land. According to Forbes, the siblings have an estimated net worth of $12.8 billion.

If you’re thinking how on earth the world’s richest people become so rich and successful, I am hoping my series on success lessons, straight from their own accounts, would spur you on to chase your dreams and eventually become one of them, too. After all, nothing is impossible to attain in this world if one puts all of one’s guts, determination, hard work coupled with a little help from the Great Architect of the Universe, up there.

The brothers are sons of real estate tycoon Ng Teng Fong, who inherited their father’s real estate empire and continued to bring it to greater heights. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon – some might be luckier than others. Their father, Teng Fong, made it from zero to hero, the epitome of a rags to riches tale. He had no rich father, no degree, but made it with determination, hard work and foresight. When he passed on, he left behind a legacy succeeded by his sons, who helped expand the business.

Due to the sluggish real estate industry in Hong Kong and Singapore, the siblings’ fortune has significantly dropped. Nonetheless, their massive wealth is acquired mostly from the Hong Kong-based Tsim Sha Tsui Properties, where Robert Ng served as chairman. Also, he has been serving as the chairman of Sino Group since 1981.

Today, the Sino Group is considered as one of Hong Kong’s leading property companies. It is comprised of three publicly traded companies that are run by the Ng family.

These companies include Tsim Sha Tsui Properties Limited, Sino Hotels (Holdings) Limited, and Sino Land Company Limited.

In an online article researched in, the group is involved in the development of residential and commercial infrastructures as well as industrial, office, and retail properties. They also invest in club management, as well as hotel development and management.

There are different routes to success, and although the Ng brothers’ wealth might not be entirely self-made, their story is still nonetheless impressive.

They’ve made their mark not only in Singapore, but also in Hong Kong and even as far as Australia.

So, what is their success formula?

  1. Have a successful and inspiring father.

The road ahead is always made easier if the foundation was laid for you. Their late father, Ng Teng Fong, had already developed Far East Organization into a conglomerate with over 700 malls, hotels and condos in Singapore and Hong Kong worth over $6 billion in value. After their father’s demise in 2010 due to cerebral hemorrhage, the brothers worked together to grow the business.

  1. Dabble in real estate in land-scarce Singapore.

Real estate is king. One in six houses in Singapore today is built by the Ng family. For a country where ownership of real estate can be acquired via HDB, leasehold or freehold, scarcity of land will always be a perennial challenge for the government to supply inventory to its citizens but also to the growing foreign population that chosen Singapore as their home.

  1. Share the workload.

The Ng family owns developmental organizations Far East Organization and Sino Group. While elder brother Robert manages the Hong Kong company, younger brother Philip takes care of the business in Singapore. In most families in Asia, sibling rivalry is always a problem that when unchecked can morphed into real conflict.

The key for any business to grow is through three governance initiatives–family and business governance where family members desirous to join the family business must follow qualifying standards first before being voted to be fit to join the family business.

Ownership governance can be in the form of a shareholders agreement where owners are obligated to follow managing protocols including the selling of shares to third parties.

Part II will follow in my next column.


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