Malaysian Entrepreneur Lim Goh Tong

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Lim Goh Tong, Malaysia’s third-richest man who turned a forested hilltop into a thriving casino resort, died Oct. 23, leaving behind a diverse business empire worth $22 billion. He was 90. Mr. Lim was the founder of Genting Group of companies. His son, Lim Kok Thay, who took over from Mr. Lim as Genting’s chief executive in 2004, did not give a cause of death in his statement. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described Mr. Lim as a hardworking entrepreneur who had contributed to the country’s economic development. “He is also a well-known philanthropist.

I believe his death is a loss not only to the nation but also to the business and entrepreneurial community in the country,” Abdullah said. Mr. Lim, a migrant from China, battled the odds to build Genting Highlands, a casino hotel that opened in 1971 and flourished into a Las Vegas-style resort. It is the country’s only casino and includes five hotels and a theme park. Forbes magazine listed Mr. Lim among the world’s top 250 billionaires in 2006 and the third-richest person in Malaysia, with a personal net worth of $4. 3 billion. Born in Anxi in Fujian province, Mr. Lim was the fifth of seven children.

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He migrated to Malaya, as Malaysia was then known, in 1937 at age 19 with only a suitcase and $175 in his pocket. He made his first fortune by trading in secondhand heavy machinery after the end of Japanese occupation in the 1940s, and later ventured into mining. While working on a hydroelectric power project in 1964 in Cameron Highlands, a popular hill resort patronized mostly by British colonials at the time, Mr. Lim dreamed of building a similar hill resort nearer to the country’s biggest city, Kuala Lumpur, as a getaway for residents. He found the remote 5,900-foot Ulu Kali mountain, about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur.

In 1965, he set up the Genting Group to transform the dense virgin tropical jungle into one of Malaysia’s top holiday destinations, which attracted 18. 5 million visitors in 2006. The Genting Group has since diversified into plantations, properties, paper manufacturing, power generation, oil and gas. It comprises five listed companies with a combined total market capitalization of more than $22 billion, according to its Web site. Genting has also developed resorts and casinos in Australia and the Philippines.

MALAYSIAN Billionaire tycoon Lim Goh Tong has died at the age of 90, following a short illness, leaving an estimated US$4. billion (S$6. 2 billion) fortune. The tycoon handed over the running of an empire with interests in property, power generation, plantations, paper manufacturing and information technology. Genting’s Hong Kong-listed subsidiary, Star Cruises, is the third-largest cruise operator in the world, while the group also controls Britain’s biggest casino operator Stanley Leisure. But Tan Sri Lim, one of Malaysia’s wealthiest businessmen, is best known for turning Genting Highlands, a hill outcrop just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, into one of the world’s most profitable casino resorts.

And to his admirers, he was more than just a developer, personifying the clutch of overseas Chinese business entrepreneurs who fled hardship in their homeland to build the corporate empires that played a major role in South-east Asia’s economic boom. “He is a model of success, starting from scratch, and his achievements came through hard work” said Tan Sri William Cheng, who controls Malaysia’s diversified Lion Group of companies. Tan Sri Lim, who hailed from China’s Fujian province, was forced to leave school at the age of 16, after his father died, and began selling vegetable seeds to support his family.

In 1937, he left Fujian for what was then British-controlled Malaya, where he dabbled in a host of businesses ranging from selling machinery to building and tin mining. Tan Sri Lim, who did not speak English and conversed with Malaysia’s political elite in colloquial Malay, came up with the idea of a hilltop resort while working on a hydroelectric project in 1963. The development of Genting, whose name in Chinese means “on top of clouds”, now attracts more than 18 million visitors a year, but it brought him perilously close to bankruptcy before taking off.

He was helped by the Malaysian government, which subsidised the building of a road to the resort and awarded him a casino licence. But his eventual success was attributed to his entrepreneurial spirit, and he gave an insight into his style in his recent autobiography. “The Genting project fitted my idea of an ideal business,” he wrote. “No one was interested in it, which meant no competition. ” He always used this as his success key

Never make language barrier a limitation to succeed. Lim Goh Tong did not speak or write in English. He spoke Hokkien in his native land China, and after coming to Malaysia, he learned Bahasa Malaysia, Cantonese & Mandarin. But that did not stop him to negotiate one of the biggest business contracts in the country.

Be polite, humble and respectful to others. If you can rub shoulders with tycoons, politicians and high officials, ask yourself, can you get along well too with hawkers and manual workers? Often times, success goes to our heads and we forget where we came from and our hardship seems to be a forgotten past.

When it comes to appointment and meeting, have a habit to be punctual. Better still, come 5 to 10 minutes early. Malaysians have a very weird habit when it comes to appointments, interviews and meeting. Don’t be one. Make punctuality your personal and business principle. Do not make excuse to cancel appointments just because the person is not important. Also, a good advice is that, if you want to know if a person will be a good friend and business partner, watch if he arrives on the appointed time when you set a date or meeting. If you are late for job interview when you can be early, know that you will not make a good employee.

Live a disciplined, simple life. Get up early from bed to start your day. You will see prosperity coming your way.  Make effort to carry something that you can write or jot down when you have anything coming to mind. Lim Goh Tong used small notebook. Now you are spoiled with choices when it comes to note taking – PDA, mobile phone, note book and so on. Do not make excuses. Also, organize your day with a diary or personal organizer. Always create a to do list.

Be bold yet cautious (the Chinese say ‘dan da xin xi‘). Try things that have never been done before. Challenge the norm of ways of doing work or job. Be willing to take that risk. A reward is waiting at the end of it.

Believe the power of conviction. If you make a decision and you believe that is a strong one, go ahead with it, no matter what you are up against. Believe in yourself.  Don’t make enemies. Avoid stepping on other people’s toes which is quite a norm in business and corporate world. People who do this will not last long. People who take short cut will have their success short lived. You have witnessed this. People say sometimes this can’t be avoided.

That’s a lie. Under all circumstances, stay away from it. 9. If you build a successful business and organization, always believe that the most valuable asset of a company is its people. It is the people that make up the organization. It is the people that run the organization. It is the people that makes things happen.  If you don’t have benefit and exposure to modern management, never doubt you can run a company as big as Microsoft. Good education is essential, but lack of education and training is never a barrier to become a boss to the smartest people on the planet.

Employ a person or make business with a person when you trust him or her. If you do not trust them; don’t employ and don’t make business with them.  Do good to others; you will be rewarded somehow. Learn to give first, and receive later. Prepare for personality makeover. If you are shy and quiet (like Lim Goh Tong when he was 20s), learn to be articulate and more extrovert. Banish the shyness and the inferiority complex. Otherwise, you will not get that job, or awarded that business contract. If you are rude, learn to be polite.

Be grateful for what you have. Life has been kind to us. Hence we should treasure our life and make it a meaningful one. Drive yourself harder and become more committed to work. Biography Mr. Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong (February 28, 1918 – October 23, 2007) was a prominent wealthy Malaysian Chinese businessman. He was renowned for his vision and courage in transforming Genting Highlands from an unexplored hilltop to one of the world’s most successful casino resorts. He was once the 3rd richest man in Malaysia with a net worth estimated to be 4. 2 billion USD, making him the 204th richest person in the billionaire list compiled by Forbes.

The Japanese invaded Malaya in 1942 and caused Lim to have a few near-death occasions. During the early Japanese Occupation, he earned a living as a vegetable farmer, but decided to switch to petty trading for a better living. Later on Lim ventured into scrap-metal and hardware trading. When the Japanese Occupation ended, there was an urgent demand for heavy machinery for resumed operations in mines and rubber plantations, Lim seized the opportunity and engaged in second-hand machinery trading, making his first fortune. From used machinery trading, Lim strayed into iron mining fortuitously.

Lim joined as a partner in an iron mining company which couldn’t settle the outstanding payment of two bulldozers with him, and this proved to be a successful venture as he earned a substantial amount of profit from the mining industry, including forming a joint-venture tin mining company which was one of the first Chinese tin companies to utilize dredges in mining tin. While dealing in heavy machinery, Lim accumulated a wide range of reconditioned machines as well as a substantial amount of cash to move into the construction and related industries.

In the name of his family construction company, Kien Huat Private Limited, Lim began taking on several contracting jobs with help and guidance from his uncles. Kien Huat won accolades and became recognized as one of the leading construction companies after successfully completing many major projects. Among the biggest projects completed was the Ayer Itam Dam, the first time a local contractor had been given the construction job of such magnitude. Lim went on the brink of bankruptcy when construction work was facing problems in the Kemubu Irrigation Scheme, but managed to overcome the obstacles and completed the project.

The idea of building a hilltop resort was first conceived when Lim Goh Tong was having a dinner in Cameron Highlands. As he was enjoying the soothing cool breeze of Cameron Highlands, an idea struck him that as the standard of living rose steadily in Malaysia, more and more people would visit mountain resorts for relaxation and recreation, but Cameron Highlands was too far away from the capital city Kuala Lumpur, therefore building a mountain resort nearer to Kuala Lumpur would have great business potential.

After doing some research, Lim found Gunung (mountain in Malay) Ulu Kali at a place called Genting Sempah to be an ideal location for his plan. He formed an expedition and explored the place, collecting a wealth of data on the topography, drainage, soil conditions and other relevant aspects of the region, this proved to be very useful in drawing up the plan for developing the resort. Upon conceiving this idea, many naysayers were skeptical of Lim turning a wilderness into a tourist resort.

Most thought it was really risky and reckoned Lim who was financially comfortable to be foolish to invest heavily in money and time to develop Genting, but Lim brushed off all these negativities and went ahead firmly with his plan. After getting approvals from the federal and state governments, Lim began the project in the face of a colossal task. Among the problems were building the access road towards the hilltop, water and electricity supplies, sewerage system and fire safety.

Lim managed to build the access road towards the summit in three years when it was estimated to take fifteen years. Several sources of water in the mountain were identified, water supply was secured by building water-collection stations and water filtration plants with treated water stored in reservoirs. Electricity is supplied through a central electricity generation system with 12 big generators. During the construction, Lim survived six close brushes with death. Meanwhile, Lim had to administer another major project in Kelantan, the Kemubu Irrigation Scheme at the same time.

This stretched his physical endurance to the limits as he had to shuttle between Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan and he worked seven days a week. During the Genting project, Lim spent all he had without earning any income. He sold an 810-hectare rubber estate to raise RM2. 5 million. In addition, he invested all the money he had made from iron mining, sub-contracting and hardware business. The project was a heavy drain on Lim’s finances. When asked to invest in this project, Lim’s friends turned him down and counseled him to drop the entire scheme instead.

Genting was granted the only casino license after Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister of Malaysia then, visited Genting Highlands and commended Lim’s effort to develop a resort contributing to Malaysia’s tourism industry without government help. Lim managed to obtain a pioneer status for Genting Highlands and tax incentives despite its resort development not qualifying for it. He did so by convincing the government that tax incentives in the early stage of development of Genting Highlands were not only vital for them but also profitable to the government later on.

The whole Genting project was completed in January 1971, but prior to officially commencing business, Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas were hit by the worst rainstorms in a century, the road to Genting was closed by landslides at 180 locations, the damaged sections took four months to repair. Genting opened its door for business on May 8, 1971. In the next 30 years, Lim continued to develop and expand Genting Highlands beyond its original idea of a hotel with basic tourist facilities. Among the projects were the construction of more hotels, indoor and outdoor theme parks, and a convention centre.

A new road was built to shorten the journey to Genting from the northern states, and RM120 million was invested to widen a 10 km stretch of the access road to reduce congestion. Another RM128 million was spent on constructing a cable car system to provide visitors with an alternative mode of transportation. In 1993, at the suggestion of Tun Mahathir, the prime minister of Malaysia then, a township was developed on an 81-hectare piece of land around the site of the Genting Skyway cable car station.

It was named Gohtong Jaya after Lim as a token of remembrance for his efforts in the development of Genting Highlands. As of now, Genting Highlands is one of the most successful casino resorts in the world and is one of the primary tourist attractions in Malaysia. Lim’s company, Genting Group operates Genting Highlands and has diversified into many other industries such as plantations, property, paper, power generation, oil and gas exploration and cruise industries.

In the process new company brands were created that have become distinctive names in their respective fields, namely Asiatic, Genting Sanyen and Star Cruises. In 1978 Lim set up Yayasan Lim, a family foundation that donates regularly to educational and medical institutions, old folk’s homes, various organizations for the physically handicapped and other charitable causes.

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Malaysian Entrepreneur Lim Goh Tong. (2018, Jun 06). Retrieved from

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