THE original Hong Leong Company has its roots in Singapore, set up in 1941 by Kwek Hong Png, who is Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan’s uncle.
Hong Png’s son Kwek Leng Beng is the executive chairman of Hong Leong group Singapore, which is also a multi-billion-dollar business empire with interests in property development, financial services and hospitality.
According to past reports, patriarch Hong Png came to Singapore in the 1920s from the Fujian province in China.
He initially worked in a hardware shop as a store hand.
Later, he decided to set up his own company and invited his three younger brothers, Kwek Hong Khai, Kwek Hong Lye and Kwek Hong Leong, to join the business. Leng Chan is the son of Hong Lye.
The company was named Hong Leong, which signified “good harvest”.
It started off as a general trading firm in ropes, paints, ships and rubber estate supplies with business conducted in a small shophouse at Singapore’s Beach Road.
Upon the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, Leng Chan as a young barrister-at-law from the Middle Temple Inn in the United Kingdom was sent to head the family business in Malaysia.
He supposedly came with an initial capital of about RM700,000, according to an executive familiar with the family.
Then, the business was only a small hardware shop along Kuala Lumpur’s Birch Street (now Jalan Maharajalela).
Not content with just running the family’s small hardware business, Leng Chan began to build the Malaysian arm almost independently from its Singapore operations.
Over the years as business flourished, Leng Chan injected more funds into the Malaysian operations as compared to the parent company in Singapore.
As a result, his stake in the ultimate privately held Hong Leong Co (M) has risen to the current 51%.
The remaining stake in Hong Leong Co (M) is held by the Hong Leong family of Singapore.
Today, both groups are firmly entrenched in their respective countries with family members of the second and third generations involved in the operations.
But unlike Leng Chan, cousin Leng Beng seems more open with the media.