KUALA LUMPUR: Berjaya group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan, one of Malaysia’s best known tycoons, has announced his retirement as chairman of Berjaya Corp Bhd (BCorp).
In a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, BCorp said Tan had decided to retire from an active corporate role to focus on social and charitable activities.
He had earlier handed over the CEO position to his son, Datuk Robin Tan, in January last year. Robin will hold the chairman’s post until the board finds a suitable candidate.
“My giving up of the chairmanship and active day-to-day involvement with the Berjaya group’s business will allow me to devote more of my time and energies to promoting more charitable and social programmes and initiatives,” said Tan, who turned 60 yesterday.
However, he noted that he would still be available to the management for consultation and advice. “I want to assure … that I am, and will remain, the controlling shareholder of BCorp and my commitment to the group, both financially and otherwise, is and will always be 100%,” he emphasised.
Tan is the founder and major shareholder of BCorp, which through various listed and unlisted companies, has businesses in property investment, gaming, direct selling, restaurant franchise, and retail.
Born in Batu Pahat in 1952, Tan’s journey to a tycoon is a classic rags-to-riches tale. Tan left school at the age of 16 and began his career as a bank clerk. He also sold insurance in the evenings, which later landed him a job as an agency supervisor for American International Assurance (AIA) at the ripe age of 21.
|In a surprise move, self-made tycoon Tan is giving up the chairmanship of Berjaya Corp to devote hi energies to social and charitable works.
In the 1970s, Tan decided to start his own business and set up an insurance company via a joint venture with Tokyo Marine & Fire Insurance. However, his big break would come later when he secured the McDonald’s franchise for Malaysia in 1980.
He established Berjaya Group in 1984 when he acquired a major controlling stake in Berjaya Industrial Bhd from its founders, Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd and National Iron & Steel Mills.
In 1985, he secured a 70% stake in gaming outfit, Sports Toto, after it was privatised by then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Sports Toto was established in 1969 and was aimed at raising funds to develop sports, youth and cultural activities.
Sports Toto’s privatisation was highly criticised as it was done without an open tender and some had questioned Tan’s close relationship with Mahathir.
According to Lim Kit Siang in his Dewan Rakyat speech in 1987, Sports Toto made RM8 million in six months before it was privatised in June 1985. Tan bought the remaining stake in Sports Toto in 1992 and the company was renamed Berjaya Sports Toto Bhd a year later.
At the same time, Tan and Berjaya acquired a number of Malaysian real estate and leisure businesses, including a stake in the Bukit Tinggi Resort complex.
He expanded his Berjaya empire to include businesses in healthcare and beauty products, direct selling, properties, manufacturing and more food franchises.
In 1993, Tan acquired Cosway Malaysia Sdn Bhd, a leading direct selling marketing company in Malaysia. The company was injected into Berjaya Singer Bhd, which was later renamed Cosway Corp Bhd.
Tan bought personal care manufacturers Unza Malaysia and Manufacturing Services Sdn Bhd (MSSB) and parked them under Cosway. He expanded Cosway’s manufacturing business by acquiring refrigeration and air-conditioning manufacturer Dunham-Bush Malaysia.
Tan expanded his food and beverage (F&B) empire via BCorp when he acquired the Kenny Rogers Roasters franchise for Malaysia in 1994. Tan later acquired the master franchise holder from US-based Nathan’s Famous Inc in 2008.
Kenny Rogers Roasters currently forms the backbone of Berjaya Food Bhd, the group’s F&B arm, which debuted in 2011.
Tan expanded the F&B business by securing the franchise licence for Starbucks Coffee in 1998, Wendy’s restaurants in 2007, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts restaurants and Papa John’s Pizza restaurants in 2008.
BCorp also obtained the rights to operate 7-Eleven convenience stores and to sub-franchise them in Malaysia and Brunei. The brand is currently parked under Berjaya Retail Bhd, alongside the Singer brand of home appliances.
Berjaya Retail was listed in 2010 but privatised by Tan barely seven months after listing.
As for the property development and investment business, BCorp has undertaken various projects in Vietnam, China, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, and operates and or owns over 15 four- and five-star hotels worldwide.
Tan also owns The Sun newspaper via Berjaya Media Bhd.
He was instrumental in setting up mobile communications in Malaysia. In 1995, he partnered Norwegian telco Telenor to set up Mutiara Swisscom (now known as DiGi.Com Bhd), the first in the country to offer a fully digital phone service.
He divested his 33% stake in DiGi and re-entered the mobile space when he launched U Mobile Sdn Bhd in 2008.
More recently, Tan grew his net worth when he bought social network Friendster in 2009 via MOL Global Pte Ltd for US$39.5 million (RM119.3 million). He later traded Friendster’s technology patent for 700,00 shares in Facebook.
His stake in Facebook has grown to 3.5 million shares following a five-for-one share split. Based on a post-IPO price of US$40 per share, Tan’s stake in Facebook is estimated to be worth US$140 million.
Tan was ranked Malaysia’s 9th richest billionaire in 2011 with a net worth of US$1.25 billion.
This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, February 24, 2012.