Tan Sri Dato’ Lee Shin Cheng is a Malaysian business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. Tan Sri Dato’ Lee Shin Cheng heads IOI Corporation Berhad, better known as IOI Group, as its executive chairman.
IOI, which is listed on the Malaysian Stock Exchange, Bursa Malaysia, is a conglomerate managing oil palm plantations, producing specialty fats and oleochemicals, and developing property in Malaysia, Indonesia, the United States, and Europe. The IOI refinery in Rotterdam, Netherlands is the largest palm oil refinery in Europe. IOI’s oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia produce palm oil and palm kernel oil. These oils are made into specialty oils, metallic stearates and fats that are used in soaps, detergents, cosmetics and food additives. IOI Group is a leading real estate developer in Malaysia. Projects include townships, shopping malls, condominiums, office towers, and resorts.
Lee grew up northeast of Kuala Lumpur on a rubber plantation, where his father ran a small Chinese food shop. He left school at the age of 11 to help support his family, selling ice cream on a bicycle for four years before returning to finish high school. He sought work with one oil palm plantation company for a supervisory job, but was turned down. The reason given—he didn’t speak fluent English—important then because Europeans still owned most of the plantations. Lee, who was then only 22, was undeterred by Dunlop Estate’s rejection. He went on to get a field supervisor’s job with at another palm oil company.
Twenty years later, Lee bought Dunlop Estate. In 2008, he recalled the happiest day of his life in an interview with the New Straits Times, saying, “My happiest day was in 1989 when I bought Dunlop Estate from Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd. This was because during the late 1960s, I had applied for a job at Dunlop Estate but they did not employ me because I was not adequately qualified. If they had employed me, I would probably not have owned the entire asset of Dunlop Estate today. This purchase marked a significant milestone in my life”.