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This page is dedicated to Kwek Leng Beng (Executive Chairman of Hong Leong Group and Chairman of City Developments Limited).

In the 1970s, Kwek Leng Beng used to sit in the lobby of King’s Hotel at Havelock Road in Singapore and pray that guests would check in. 

“When they arrived, I cheered and my spirits lifted,” he recalls. 

Chuckling, he adds: “My father got me to manage King’s Hotel when it opened in 1970 while he managed the smaller Orchid Hotel at Dunearn Road. Orchid had far fewer rooms, yet he still made more money from it than I did managing King’s.” 

King’s Hotel was renamed Copthorne King’s in 1998 when Kwek rebranded his hotels in Singapore with the name of his then newly-acquired Copthorne hotel chain. It reopened late last month after a two-year refurbishment, which cost Hong Leong S$15mil (RM33mil). 

Despite economic hiccups like an over-supply of hotel rooms and waxing and waning tourist numbers in the past 34 years, King’s went from a mere 175 rooms in the early 1970s to boast 314 Zen-inspired rooms today, targeting mainly businessmen. 

Kwek may own 88 hotels on four continents today, but he is still fondest of his maiden King’s because he saw its development through from scratch, having bought the land where it sits on for S$980,000 in 1968. 

Today, that plot is, conservatively, worth S$30mil (RM66mil). “If you work backwards, this means there has been close to a 90% increase in the value of the land every year since 1968,” he says. 

“That’s why I still believe real estate is the key to becoming rich in this part of the world.” 

So, while he also owns Los Angeles’ swanky Millennium Biltmore – famous for having hosted the Oscars before World War II – and Chicago’s Millennium Knickerbocker, the hangout for the American mafioso Al Capone in the 1920s, Copthorne King’s will always be “the mother of all hotels”. 

In fact, he chills out at King’s almost every week when he’s not overseas, dining there with his family members, business associates and tennis kakis at its long-famous Penang Peranakan buffet, where he makes a beeline for its Penang Hokkien mee, or in King’s Tien Court restaurant. 

The following are some recent deals which have put Kwek Leng Beng right up there with the big boys of global hospitality: 

April 1995: With Saudi Arabia’s Price Alwaleed, he buys New York’s The Plaza hotel from Donald Trump for US$325mil. 

November 1999: He cobbles together a US$357mil deal within three months – beating 19 global bidders – to buy the trophy Seoul Hilton from then troubled Daewoo group. 

2000: From his family’s stable of six hotels in 1989, he owns 117 hotels in 13 countries, and Asia’s hoteliers crown him the Asian Hotelier of the Decade. 

October 2004: He and Prince Alwaleed sell off The Plaza for a record price of US$675mil. 

December 2004: Announces that he will build an ultra-luxe six-star St Regis hotel-cum-residential development in Singapore – the third in Asia after Shanghai and Beijing. The 299-room hotel and 255-luxury apartment project at Tanglin Road and Tomlinson Road will cost S$900mil (RM1.98bil), including developing the land it sits on.

Ref: The Star Online


See also:

Bill Gates

Sim Wong Hoo

Olivia Lum