Khoo Teck Puat



Khoo Teck Puat (b. 13 January 1917, Singapore–d. 21 February 2004, Singapore) was a prominent businessman and investor with interests in banking, hotels, property development and other sectors.1 He controlled the Goodwood group of hotels and held significant stakes in the London-based Standard Chartered Bank as well as three major banks in Singapore, having founded Malayan Banking.2 In 2004, Forbes magazine listed Khoo as Singapore’s richest man with a net worth of US$4.3 billion.3

Early life
Born into a family of considerable means, Khoo received his education at St Joseph’s Institution, and at the age of 16 joined OCBC as a clerk.4 His father, Khoo Yang Tin, was a rice trader and owned stakes in two of the Hokkien banks that later merged to form the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC).5 The senior Khoo also owned tracts of land in Singapore, which were later inherited by Khoo.6

During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), Khoo remained with OCBC and rose through the ranks, as more senior staff left the bank.7 In 1958, while serving as the deputy general manager of OCBC, Khoo was appointed chairman of the Central Provident Fund Board, a post he held until the following year.8

Khoo advocated an aggressive policy in loans, acquisitions and expansions for OCBC, but found himself at odds with the bank’s then managing director Tan Chin Tuan, who favoured a more conservative approach.9 Tan also disagreed with Khoo’s channelling of bank funds towards his own investments.10 After failing to be appointed to the bank’s board of directors, Khoo left OCBC in 1959.11

Malayan Banking
Spotting a gap in the Malayan banking sector, Khoo moved to Kuala Lumpur and set up Malayan Banking in 1960 with 80 former OCBC staff.12 The bank was founded with a paid-up capital of $10 million, with Khoo injecting $4 million of his own money.13


Within six years, Malayan Banking had opened more than 100 branches in Malaya, Singapore, London and Hong Kong, which made it the fastest-growing bank in the world at the time.14 With Khoo at the helm as managing director and chief executive, Malayan Banking also moved into financing and real estate in Singapore. The bank acquired Goodwood Park Hotel for S$4.8 million in 1963.15

Khoo adopted Malaysian citizenship, and was appointed to the senate by the Malaysian king in 1964.16 In 1966, he received the title of Tan Sri from the sultan of Terengganu.17 Khoo also cultivated the political elite in Malaysia with donations to parties such as the United Malays National Organisation.18

After the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in August 1965, the value of Malayan Banking’s investments in Singapore fell, and it emerged that a significant proportion of the bank’s loans were to Khoo’s companies in Singapore.19 Amid a boardroom struggle, there was a run on the bank with a large number of its customers withdrawing their deposits, and Khoo was held responsible.20

In January 1967, Khoo lost his position as the managing director of Malayan Banking, and was compelled to purchase the bank’s Singapore investments, including the Goodwood group of hotels and other properties, for around S$50 million.21 The Malaysian government then effectively took control of Malayan Banking, and Khoo was eventually removed from its board in 1976.22

Return to Singapore
In 1972, Khoo moved back to Singapore where a large part of his assets including the Goodwood group of hotels and other properties were located.23 He invested heavily in the country’s tourism sector and built the largest hotel group in Singapore at the time. At various points, he owned the Holiday Inn Singapore, Ladyhill Hotel (now demolished), Hotel Malaysia (later the Omni Marco Polo Hotel) and Ming Court Hotel in addition to his flagship Goodwood Park and York hotels.24 Khoo also ventured into a diverse array of businesses including laundry service, bowling alleys and the distributorship of Fiat cars.25


Khoo garnered substantial stakes in OCBC, the Development Bank of Singapore (now DBS Bank) and the United Overseas Bank, and gained a reputation for his shrewd stock market ventures.26 His sense of timing in investing during a downturn, and selling when the share prices rose was well known. Khoo later remarked of his strategy: “When no one wants it, that’s the time to buy a few million”.27

Overseas interests
In the early 1980s, Khoo sold off a number of his hotels and properties in Singapore, including the Holiday Inn to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei for over S$250 million in 1983.28 The profitable deal for Khoo came just before a major property downturn in Singapore in the mid-1980s.29

Subsequently, Khoo built significant property and hotel interests in Australia.30 In 1981, he acquired the Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation for S$256 million from the Saudi Arabian billionaire, Adnan Khashoggi.31 Southern Pacific was then one of the largest hotel operators in the region, and the acquisition gave Khoo control of more than 50 hotels in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, New Zealand and Fiji.32 Khoo also took up permanent residency in Australia.33 By 1981, he was estimated to preside over more than 40 companies in Southeast Asia, Australia and Hong Kong with assets totalling over S$1 billion.34

In 1986, Khoo acquired 22.2 percent of the British financial services group, Exco International, and a significant stake in Standard Chartered Bank.35 His stake in Standard Chartered was later increased to around 13.5 percent, which made him the single largest shareholder of the bank.36 Khoo’s move into Standard Chartered – made at the same time as investments by shipping magnate Yue-Kong Pao and Australian businessman Robert Holmes à Court – helped the bank stave off a hostile takeover attempt by Lloyds Bank.37 Khoo and Pao became the first Asians to join the board of Standard Chartered.38 That year, together with Holmes à Court, Khoo was named the richest man in Australia by Australian magazine Business Review Weekly.39

National Bank of Brunei controversy
Khoo’s business and social relationships with the Brunei royal family began in the 1960s. In 1965, he established the National Bank of Brunei (NBB) with equity participation from the royal family.40 In the 1980s, however, his ties with Sultan Bolkiah were reportedly strained by negotiations over the ownership of NBB.41


In November 1986, it emerged that 90 percent of NBB’s loans were made to companies controlled by Khoo, without proper security or interest charged.42 NBB also owed more than $600 million to other banks and depositors, and was closed by the Brunei government after an investigation.43 Khoo argued that NBB had not breached Brunei’s few banking regulations, and had not caused losses to shareholders.44 However, the government charged Khoo’s son, Ban Hock, the chairman of NBB, with five counts of defrauding the bank and issued a warrant of arrest for Khoo.45

Khoo moved from Australia to various countries including South Korea and Bangkok to avoid extradition to Brunei, but Ban Hock was found guilty and sentenced to four years in jail.46 The incident forced Khoo to resign from the board of Standard Chartered and sell a number of his assets, including his stakes in Exco and Southern Pacific, to pay off his liabilities of around $450 million at NBB.47 The Brunei government’s civil suits against Khoo were dropped after he made restitution in June 1988, and the warrant of arrest was allowed to lapse.48

Personal and family life
Alluding to his experiences during the Great Depression and the Japanese Occupation, Khoo was said to have formed a penchant for frugality and dislike of waste.49 His well-known love of luxury cars aside, Khoo was said to have lived simply, often eating hawker food.50 He took a paternalistic approach to his family life, placing almost all of his 15 children into management positions in his companies and meeting them daily for meals at home.51 Despite his personal frugality, Khoo was said to have lavished his family with luxuries like holidays, cars and jewellery.52 After his death, Khoo’s youngest son, Eric said: “He loved family, good food and cars, in that order”.53


Death
On 21 February 2004, Khoo was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Hospital after suffering a heart attack, and died at 6.50 pm with his children by his side.54

After his death, it emerged that Khoo had owned a larger stake in his listed companies Goodwood Park, Hotel Malaysia and Central Properties than was disclosed to the Singapore Exchange.55 After an investigation, his daughters Jacqueline and Elizabeth, who were in management positions at the companies, were fined a total of S$500,000.56

Khoo Foundation
In 1981, Khoo set up the Khoo Foundation with an initial S$20 million endowment and funded a range of charitable causes.57 Since his death, the foundation has contributed more than S$345 million towards healthcare, medical research and education, including S$125 million towards the construction and operation of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.58

Family
Father: Khoo Yang Tin

Mother: Yeo Kim Chiam59
Wives: Tan Geok Yin, Rose Marie,60 Renee Chew61
Daughters: Bee See, Bee Keng, Bee Leng, Bee Lian, Bee Lay Lucy, Mavis, Margaret, Linda, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Jacqueline
Sons: Ban Hock, Ban Tian, Ban Lian Raymond, Kim Hai Eric62



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Tay, A. (1986, December 5). The billion-dollar world of hotel tycoon. The Business Times, p. 8; Wong, K. H. (2004, February 22). Hotel tycoon Khoo dies at 86. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chow, H. (2004, March 19). Khoo Teck Puat’s grip on 3 firms bigger than declared. The Straits Times, p. 26; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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6. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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13. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Sunday Times, p. 13; Tan, R. (1987, October 25). Khoo Teck Puat’s elusive dreams. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; History runs in a circle for both Khoos in $290 m deal. (1981, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 6; Page 3 advertisements column 1. (1963, December 20). The Straits Times, p. 3; Tan, R. (1987, October 25). Khoo Teck Puat’s elusive dreams. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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22. Tan, R. (1987, October 25). Khoo Teck Puat’s elusive dreams. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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24. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; History runs in a circle for both Khoos in $290 m deal. (1981, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 6; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
26. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Shrewd tycoon who thrives on bravado and power play. (1987, November 10). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Patriarch Khoo calls the shots at home. (1987, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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30. Chong, F. (1981, May 8). Khoo Teck Puat in $268 m deal. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Hotelier Khoo may be planning to settle in Australia. (1981, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 4; Chong, F. (1981, May 8). Khoo Teck Puat in $268 m deal. The Business Times, p. 1; Shrewd tycoon who thrives on bravado and power play. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Hotelier Khoo may be planning to settle in Australia. (1981, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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36. Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Duthie, S. (1986, November 25). Government’s seizure of bank in Brunei has repercussions far from sultanate. The Wall Street Journal; Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Ong, C. C. (1987, November 10). How quickly the wheels of fortune turned against Khoo Teck Puat. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
40. Pura, R. (1987, February 4). Brunei bank was a money machine for Khoo. The Wall Street Journal; Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Shrewd tycoon who thrives on bravado and power play. (1987, November 10). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Duthie, S. (1986, November 25). Government’s seizure of bank in Brunei has repercussions far from sultanate. The Wall Street Journal; Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
42. Duthie, S. (1986, November 25). Government’s seizure of bank in Brunei has repercussions far from sultanate. The Wall Street Journal; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald; Pura, R. (1987, February 4). Brunei bank was a money machine for Khoo. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
44. Pura, R. (1987, February 4). Brunei bank was a money machine for Khoo. The Wall Street Journal; Duthie, S. (1986, November 25). Government’s seizure of bank in Brunei has repercussions far from sultanate. The Wall Street Journal; Harris, G. (1986, November 29). Man of few words opens up on family scandal. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Duthie, S. (1986, November 25). Government’s seizure of bank in Brunei has repercussions far from sultanate. The Wall Street Journal; Pura, R. (1987, February 4). Brunei bank was a money machine for Khoo. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Tan, R. (1987, October 25). Khoo Teck Puat’s elusive dreams. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Tan, R. (1987, October 25). Khoo Teck Puat’s elusive dreams. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
47. Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Tan, L. (2004, February 23). Bank clerk turned S’pore’s richest man. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald; Pura, R. (1987, February 4). Brunei bank was a money machine for Khoo. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

48. Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. Mellor, B. (1988, February 28). I want him in jail! The Sun Herald. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Ong, C. C. (1987, November 10). How quickly the wheels of fortune turned against Khoo Teck Puat. The Straits Times, p. 21; Patriarch Khoo calls the shots at home. (1987, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. Ong, C. C. (1987, November 10). How quickly the wheels of fortune turned against Khoo Teck Puat. The Straits Times, p. 21; Wong, K. H. (2004, February 22). Hotel tycoon Khoo dies at 86. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. Quah, M. (2005, June 21). Tycoon was Goodwood’s ‘controlling spirit’. The Business Times, p. 3; Patriarch Khoo calls the shots at home. (1987, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. Patriarch Khoo calls the shots at home. (1987, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Wong, K. H. (2004, February 22). Hotel tycoon Khoo dies at 86. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Loh, S. (2004, March 7). Khoo’s coup. The Straits Times, p. 13; Wong, K. H. (2004, February 22). Hotel tycoon Khoo dies at 86. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. Chow, H. (2004, March 19). Khoo Teck Puat’s grip on 3 firms bigger than declared. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Quah, M. (2005, June 21). Khoo sisters fined $500,000, escape jail. The Business Times, p. 1; Siow, L. S. & Chong, V. (2004, March 19). Khoo Teck Puat’s secret stakes come to light. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
56. Quah, M. (2005, June 21). Khoo sisters fined $500,000, escape jail. The Business Times, p. 1; Quah, M. (2005, June 21). Tycoon was Goodwood’s ‘controlling spirit’. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
57. Hotelier Teck Puat sets up $20m charity foundation. (1981, November 23). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
58. Wong, K. H. (2010, November 24). Tycoon’s gift for better health care. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
59. Untitled. (1983, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
60. Untitled. (1995, March 22). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
61. Patriarch Khoo calls the shots at home. (1987, October 25). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
62. Untitled. (2004, February 22). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resource
Gill, R. (1987). Khoo Teck Puat: Tycoon on a tightrope. Singapore: Sterling Corporate Service.

(Call no.: RSING 332.10924 KHO.G)



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities
Hotels--Singapore
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography
Khoo, Teck Puat, 1917-2004
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Tourism and hospitality
Personalities>>Biographies