Singapore is famous for its hands-off economic policies and business-friendly environment, so it is no surprise a handful of the world’s billionaires call the tiny Asian nation home. According to a 2015 list of the richest people in Singapore by Forbes, a total of 28 Singaporeans boast net worths in excess of $1 billion, up from 21 qualifiers in 2014. The wealthiest Singaporean residents come from an extremely diverse range of backgrounds, perhaps highlighted by the Brazilian Eduardo Saverin.
1. Robert & Philip Ng – $8.7 Billion Net Worth
Brothers and real estate moguls Robert and Philip Ng inherited a large property and hotel empire from their father, Ng Teng Fong. Philip Ng is the CEO of the Far East Organization (FEO) and director of Sino Group, which is actually just the Hong Kong-based sister company of the FEO. Robert Ng is chairman of Sino Group.
According to multiple sources, revenues from these two companies declined by 20% to 25% between 2012 and 2015, forcing the brothers to push into new markets in search of a stopgap. The favorite spot has been Australia, where the Ng family has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars in new assets.
2. Kwek Leng Beng – $7.2 Billion Net Worth
The wealthiest single individual in Singapore is Kwek Leng Beng, another real estate tycoon. His broader company, Hong Leong Group Singapore, was founded by his father, Kwek Hong Png, who left China completely broke as a teenager. Kwek Leng Beng studied to be an attorney in London but subsequently chose to return home and work in the family business.
Kwek’s City Developments had record revenues in 2014 and a partnership with the Malaysian company IOI Group expects to bring in high returns. With the ongoing struggles of the Far East Organization, many expect Kwek Leng Beng to be Singapore’s richest person in the near future.
3. Goh Cheng Liang – $6.3 Billion Net Worth
Increased investment in Japanese paints producer Nippon Paint Holdings launched Goh Cheng Liang from number seven to number three on the richest Singaporean list; Goh even briefly held the top spot in early 2015. Goh’s original company, Wuthelam Holdings, was established in 1955 to manufacture and distribute paint and coatings, and the company struck a lucrative deal with Nippon in 1962. Hup Jin, Goh’s son, is the executive director of Nippon and the private owner of JV Nipsea.
Goh Cheng Liang is relatively unknown and extremely private. He comes from a background of poverty and had to flee to Malaysia during WWII, finally returning home in the 1940s. He started his empire by buying a few barrels of rotten paint from the British army and a Chinese dictionary on chemicals. After some experimentation, Wuthelam Holdings was born.
4. Wee Cho Yaw – $5.5 Billion Net Worth
Forbes actually lists the Khoo family as the fourth wealthiest Singaporeans, but that fortune is split between 14 different family members in Singapore and Malaysia. Wee Cho Yaw is significantly wealthier than any single Khoo member, so he lands at number four.
Chow Yaw joined the board of directors for United Chinese Bank in 1958 before assuming the chairmanship in 1974, succeeding his father Wee Kheng Chiang. Son Wee Ee Chong subsequently took over from Wee Cho Yaw as CEO of United Chinese Bank.
5. Eduardo Saverin – $5.4 Billion Net Worth
Eduardo Saverin, at 33, is Brazilian by birth and received his degree from Harvard University. Saverin is the lesser-known co-founder of Facebook and is probably most noted for renouncing his U.S. citizenship in 2012 before moving to Singapore.
Saverin also co-founded Velos Partners, a private equity firm in Los Angeles, and acts as chairman for the company. He is one of the youngest billionaires in the world and has invested heavily in the burgeoning tech industry in Asia.