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Nippon Paint Mogul Tops Wealthy List

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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Riding the crest of the booming Asian paint and coatings market, the founder of Nippon Paint South-East Asia Group (NIPSEA) has become the richest man in Singapore, and one of the richest in the world.

Goh Cheng Liang is the founder of the privately held Wuthelam Holdings, whose 39 percent stake in Nippon Paint makes it the largest shareholder in Asia's largest paint and coatings maker.

Wuthelam's joint venture with Japan-based Nippon Paint Holdings produces almost a billion liters of paints and coatings annually and has operations in 15 countries, including China, Malaysia and Indonesia, Bloomberg News reported.

As a result, Goh, 87, was worth $8.3 billion as of Jan. 20, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That makes the self-made billionaire the wealthiest person in Singapore and 157th worldwide.

Goh Cheng Liang

Worth $8.3 billion, Goh Cheng Liang started his path to fortune by reselling rotten paint the British Army was auctioning off.

Recently, about 2,500 liters of a Nippon Paint acrylic emulsion were used to repaint the Raffles Hotel in Singapore—a job Bloomberg News credits with boosting Goh into his new financial status.

Rags to Riches

Born into poverty in 1928, young Goh sold fishing nets and worked at a hardware store.

His journey as a paint tycoon started in 1949, when he bought barrels of rotten paint that the British Army was selling off, according to Bloomberg. He started mixing the paint with colors and started his first business under the brand Pigeon Paint.

Pigeon's domestic sales reportedly took off in 1950 when Singapore's government put restrictions on imports during the Korean War.

He later learned about paint manufacturing technology in Denmark, then partnered with Nippon Paint Holdings to form the Singapore-based NIPSEA Group in 1962. NIPSEA has since become one of the region's largest paint makers.

Giving Back

A philanthropist, Goh developed Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital; sponsors a scholarship at Singapore Management University; gave $40 million to cancer research through his foundation in 2014; and is funding South East Asia's first proton therapy machine, according to Bloomberg.

Nippon Paint
Facebook.com / NIPSEA Group

Goh, second from the right, is said to be publicity-shy. Nonetheless, he has donated millions to cancer research and is funding South East Asia's first proton therapy machine.

The publicity-shy mogul also reportedly owns a 200-foot-long superyacht and enjoys deep-sea fishing and scuba diving in Bali.

In the Family

Goh's son, Goh Hup Jin, 61, has run the company since the 1980s. Both father and son are said to be very discreet. In fact, the elder Goh's fortune wasn't even widely known until 2012 when Hup Jin started looking into taking over Nippon Paint.

"If you mention the Goh name in the paint industry, it isn't known," Rajesh Palaha, an independent marine paint consultant, told Bloomberg News.

However, Palaha said, "Nippon Paint is known."


Tagged categories: Coatings manufacturers; Finance; Nippon Paint; Personnel

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