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Paint Mogul Named Singapore's Richest

Friday, January 23, 2015

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The coatings industry has been good to Goh Cheng Liang. So good, in fact, that he is now the richest man in Singapore.

Goh, founder of Nippon Paint South-East Asia Group (NIPSEA) and the largest shareholder of Nippon Paint, was worth $8.3 billion as of Tuesday (Jan. 20), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The majority of the 87-year-old's fortune comes from holding company Wuthelam Holdings, through which he has a 39 percent stake in Nippon Paint.

NIPSEA produces one billion liters of paints and coatings each year and operates in 15 countries, Bloomberg News reported.

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 helping boost Goh into his new financial ranking.

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 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 / 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 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: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Coatings manufacturers; Finance; Nippon Paint; Personnel

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