Meet Singapore New Richest Man, Who Never Went To School

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Jan 19 2015
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If Jack Ma has become the new richest man in China, there’s a new richest man in Singapore too. Does the name Mr. Goh Cheng Liang ring a bell? Most probably not, simply because this billionaire is an incredibly low-profile person. In fact, the last time he talked to the press was in 1997, almost 2-decades ago. With net worth of a cool US$8.2 billion (£5.4 billion; S$ 10.2 billion; RM29.2 billion), 82-year-old Goh emerges as the new richest man.


Mr. Goh has overtaken the previous richest Singaporean Mr. Wee Cho Yaw, the largest shareholder of Singapore’s United Overseas Bank with a net worth of US$6.9 billion. But what makes Goh’s story worth reading is this – he made his first barrel of gold in paint industry, and he never went to school. His story began in 1928 when he was born to a poor family in a one-room flat where he later grew up with three sisters and a brother.

Singapore Billionaire Goh Cheng Liang Laughing

During the Japanese Occupation, his father was unemployed and his mother did laundry while his sister sold ‘soon kway’, a popular street food. His childhood job? Helping his brother-in-law sell fishing nets in Muar, Johor, before working as an apprentice at Tan Chong Huat hardware store. It was tough work with gruelling tasks and he decided to try something new and wanted to become a boss.


His fate was such that his experience taught him the business skills needed when an opportunity comes. After World War II, the British were auctioning off surplus stocks, and the young man bought all the barrels of rotten paint, dirt cheap. He started mixing pigments, solvents and chemicals to make his own brand of paints called Pigeon. Thanks to Korean War where imports were restricted, he made his first barrel of windfall, and is destiny as the future paint tycoon starts.

Singapore Billionaire Goh Cheng Liang and Nippon Paint Japan HQ

Japanese Nippon Paint, which was founded in 1881 established a paint manufacturing plant in the city-state in 1962. Naturally, Mr. Goh who had set up his first paint shop in 1955 in Singapore, when the city was still part of British Empire’s colony, became Osaka-based Nippon Paint’s distributor. As the founder of Nippon Paint (Singapore), he held a 60% stake in a joint venture called Nipsea Management Group.


Mr Goh’s stake in the joint venture is held through his Singapore-based investment company, Wuthelam Holdings. Nipsea now operates in 15 countries outside of Japan with some 15,000 employees and factories in 30 locations. As Asia’s biggest paintmaker, Nipsea’s  annual turnover stands at US$2.6 billion. Just like his father, 61-year-old son Goh Hup Jin, has headed the company since the 1980s and is similarly low-profiled.

Singapore Billionaire Goh Cheng Liang and Nippon Paint Japan Partnership

Last month, Mr. Goh boosted his stake in Nippon Paint to 39% from 15%, making him the largest shareholder. This was achieved when his Wuthelam Holdings received 60 million Nippon shares, in exchange for Nippon Paint Japan raising its stake to 51% in eight joint ventures with Wuthelam. With this latest business deals, the half-century-old partnership has been strengthened further.


There’s little doubt that Mr Goh’s rising fortune was partly due to Singapore government’s rules which require buildings to be repainted every five years. That’s the reason why all the buildings in Singapore look “forever” new the moment foreigners step into the tiny country. However, as with other traditional billionaires, super rich Goh also made some money in the property markets. Hospital Mt. Elizabeth and Liang Court shopping mall were his landmarks.

Singapore Billionaire Goh Cheng Liang Super Yacht White Rabbit Echo

Beside paint and shopping malls, the tycoon also ventured into hotels, serviced residences, specialty packaging, logistics, marinas, golf courses, food manufacturing and even mining in China. Although a low profile businessman, Mr. Goh has a collection of luxury boats, including the Australian-built 200-foot superyacht White Rabbit “Echo”. Altogether, Teochew tycoon Goh and his family owned four White Rabbit yachts. Not bad for a man who never went to school.


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Billionaires are always started from nothing, but poverty with determination and perservarance, with good timing and luck factor too, to make complete entity to become ultra rich over times.

Unlike corruptor and fraudster who used to abuse their political power to steal treasury funds/bonds with their position as top head of government, who is always evil minded to manipulate and cheat the public taxpayers’ funds with abusing power with his cronies to enrich themselves like those CM in Sarawak and PM in Malaysia, who are all unisted cheating billionaires with illegal and illicit funds from their positions concerned.

Cheer to those who endure to become real legal billionare without resorting to any political abuse of power to corrupt absolutely.

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