Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee Shin Cheng was born in Klang, Selangor, Malaysia in 1939, with ancestry from Eng Choon, a Hokkien province in the Republic of China. He was the founder and Executive Chairman of the two public-listed companies IOI Corporation Bhd and IOI Properties Group Bhd. Through his entrepreneurial leadership and stewardships, strategic vision, guidance, wisdom as well as his vast experience, the two companies have grown to become leading global palm oil player and leading property developer in Malaysia
• Early Life
Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee grew up in an oil palm plantation estate in Jeram where his father ran a small sundry shop in a rubber estate. He had to stop schooling when he was 11 years old to help support his family. He rode his bicycle selling ice cream for four years before returning to finish his secondary school studies in 1960.
After leaving school, he started to work as a supervisor in a rubber estate. Having worked in the estates for several years, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee applied for an Assistant Manager’s job in a plantation company, Dunlop Estates but was rejected because of his lack of academic qualification. After being rejected by Dunlop Estates, he went on to get a field supervisor job with another oil palm plantation company and diligently worked his way up to become a full-fledged estate manager. Some 25 years later, he bought up the entire Dunlop Estates company
• Journey to Entrepreneurship
Determined to make his entrepreneurial dream a reality, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee has built vast businesses in the plantation, resourcebased manufacturing and property sectors. He positioned IOI into a leading global integrated plantation company and one of the largest property developers in Malaysia.
Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee’s achievements stemmed from his humble beginnings in the late seventies, where he founded Lam Soon Huat Sdn Bhd in December 1975 and ventured into his first housing project named Taman Mayang in Petaling Jaya. In 1983, he first ventured into plantation business by acquiring Bukit Dinding Estate and Sabai Estate in Pahang. In the following year, he acquired three property development companies and further expanded the property business. Subsequently, he embarked on his first township development named Bandar Puchong Jaya, Puchong in 1990. In the next few years, he acquired more estates for plantation and increased the landbanks for property developments.
• Significant Milestones in Life
In 1990, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee acquired the entire plantation assets of Dunlop Estates Berhad from Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd. The acquisition involved 13 palm oil estates of many times the size of the existing land held by IOI, and was considered a bold and unwise move by a new comer in the industry, especially at the time when the plantation business was viewed as a sunset industry. However, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee said to the market analysts then; “today sunset, tomorrow sunrise”. This was truly a demonstration of his vision and foresight.
Another significant milestone of Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee was the acquisition of Pamol Plantations Sdn Bhd in 2003 from Unilever. Since the acquisition, the breeding and seed production operations of Pamol have been integrated into the IOI Research Centre which have made IOI as the only plantation company producing the highest crude palm oil yield in Malaysia. Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee’s vision and management capability extend beyond plantations. In 1997, he acquired a controlling stake in Palmco Holdings Berhad, a palm-based oleochemical company, later renamed as IOI Oleochemical Industries Berhad.Within one year of acquiring the struggling company, Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Lee turned it around and made it into a highly profitable business by expanding the market base of its products globally.
Following IOI’s acquisition of Pan-Century Edible Oils and Pan-Century Oleochemicals, IOI later became one of the largest vegetable-based oleochemicals manufacturers in the world. Today, IOI Oleochemical Industries Berhad is one of the largest oleochemical companies in Asia, and one of the most respected and innovative players in the industry.
• Global Venture