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Biography of Mr. Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong

Biography

Mr. Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong
 
Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong (February 28, 1918 – October 23, 2007) was a prominent wealthy Malaysian Chinese businessman. He was renowned for his vision and courage in transforming Genting Highlands from an unexplored hilltop to one of the world's most successful casino resorts. He was once the 3rd richest man in Malaysia with a net worth estimated to be 4.2 billion USD, making him the 204th richest person in the billionaire list compiled by Forbes.

The Japanese invaded Malaya in 1942 and caused Lim to have a few near-death occasions. During the early Japanese Occupation, he earned a living as a vegetable farmer, but decided to switch to petty trading for a better living. Later on Lim ventured into scrap-metal and hardware trading. When the Japanese Occupation ended, there was an urgent demand for heavy machinery for resumed operations in mines and rubber plantations, Lim seized the opportunity and engaged in second-hand machinery trading, making his first fortune.

From used machinery trading, Lim strayed into iron mining fortuitously. Lim joined as a partner in an iron mining company which couldn't settle the outstanding payment of two bulldozers with him, and this proved to be a successful venture as he earned a substantial amount of profit from the mining industry, including forming a joint-venture tin mining company which was one of the first Chinese tin companies to utilize dredges in mining tin.

While dealing in heavy machinery, Lim accumulated a wide range of reconditioned machines as well as a substantial amount of cash to move into the construction and related industries. In the name of his family construction company, Kien Huat Private Limited, Lim began taking on several contracting jobs with help and guidance from his uncles. Kien Huat won accolades and became recognized as one of the leading construction companies after successfully completing many major projects. Among the biggest projects completed was the Ayer Itam Dam, the first time a local contractor had been given the construction job of such magnitude.

Lim went on the brink of bankruptcy when construction work was facing problems in the Kemubu Irrigation Scheme, but managed to overcome the obstacles and completed the project.

The idea of building a hilltop resort was first conceived when Lim Goh Tong was having a dinner in Cameron Highlands. As he was enjoying the soothing cool breeze of Cameron Highlands, an idea struck him that as the standard of living rose steadily in Malaysia, more and more people would visit mountain resorts for relaxation and recreation, but Cameron Highlands was too far away from the capital city Kuala Lumpur, therefore building a mountain resort nearer to Kuala Lumpur would have great business potential.

After doing some research, Lim found Gunung (mountain in Malay) Ulu Kali at a place called Genting Sempah to be an ideal location for his plan. He formed an expedition and explored the place, collecting a wealth of data on the topography, drainage, soil conditions and other relevant aspects of the region, this proved to be very useful in drawing up the plan for developing the resort.

Upon conceiving this idea, many naysayers were skeptical of Lim turning a wilderness into a tourist resort. Most thought it was really risky and reckoned Lim who was financially comfortable to be foolish to invest heavily in money and time to develop Genting, but Lim brushed off all these negativities and went ahead firmly with his plan.

After getting approvals from the federal and state governments, Lim began the project in the face of a colossal task. Among the problems were building the access road towards the hilltop, water and electricity supplies, sewerage system and fire safety. Lim managed to build the access road towards the summit in three years when it was estimated to take fifteen years. Several sources of water in the mountain were identified, water supply was secured by building water-collection stations and water filtration plants with treated water stored in reservoirs. Electricity is supplied through a central electricity generation system with 12 big generators.

During the construction, Lim survived six close brushes with death. Meanwhile, Lim had to administer another major project in Kelantan, the Kemubu Irrigation Scheme at the same time. This stretched his physical endurance to the limits as he had to shuttle between Kuala Lumpur and Kelantan and he worked seven days a week.

During the Genting project, Lim spent all he had without earning any income. He sold an 810-hectare rubber estate to raise RM2.5 million. In addition, he invested all the money he had made from iron mining, sub-contracting and hardware business. The project was a heavy drain on Lim's finances. When asked to invest in this project, Lim's friends turned him down and counseled him to drop the entire scheme instead.

Genting was granted the only casino license after Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister of Malaysia then, visited Genting Highlands and commended Lim's effort to develop a resort contributing to Malaysia's tourism industry without government help.

Lim managed to obtain a pioneer status for Genting Highlands and tax incentives despite its resort development not qualifying for it. He did so by convincing the government that tax incentives in the early stage of development of Genting Highlands were not only vital for them but also profitable to the government later on.

The whole Genting project was completed in January 1971, but prior to officially commencing business, Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas were hit by the worst rainstorms in a century, the road to Genting was closed by landslides at 180 locations, the damaged sections took four months to repair. Genting opened its door for business on May 8, 1971.

In the next 30 years, Lim continued to develop and expand Genting Highlands beyond its original idea of a hotel with basic tourist facilities. Among the projects were the construction of more hotels, indoor and outdoor theme parks, and a convention centre. A new road was built to shorten the journey to Genting from the northern states, and RM120 million was invested to widen a 10 km stretch of the access road to reduce congestion. Another RM128 million was spent on constructing a cable car system to provide visitors with an alternative mode of transportation.

In 1993, at the suggestion of Tun Mahathir, the prime minister of Malaysia then, a township was developed on an 81-hectare piece of land around the site of the Genting Skyway cable car station. It was named Gohtong Jaya after Lim as a token of remembrance for his efforts in the development of Genting Highlands.

As of now, Genting Highlands is one of the most successful casino resorts in the world and is one of the primary tourist attractions in Malaysia. Lim's company, Genting Group operates Genting Highlands and has diversified into many other industries such as plantations, property, paper, power generation, oil and gas exploration and cruise industries. In the process new company brands were created that have become distinctive names in their respective fields, namely Asiatic, Genting Sanyen and Star Cruises.

On December 31, 2003, Lim handed his chairmanship of Genting Group over to his son, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay.

Lim died at 11.20am, October 23, 2007, at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC).

Mr. Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong

Achievement and Awards


Lim had won many awards together with his company Genting Group for his entrepreneurship and his contribution, among them were:

Malaysian Entrepreneurs Award 1985

Manager of the Year Award 1986

Business Achiever of the Year Award 1994

Number 1 ranking of 10 Malaysian Leading Companies 1996

The Best Employer Award 1996

He was conferred the title "Tan Sri" by the government of Malaysia on 6 June 1979 in recognition to the contribution he has made to the country.

In 1978 Lim set up Yayasan Lim, a family foundation that donates regularly to educational and medical institutions, old folk's homes, various organizations for the physically handicapped and other charitable causes.
 
2008 G2E Asia Visionary Award
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