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Friday May 2, 2008 MYT 4:20:19 PM

Naza Group founder Nasimuddin dies (2nd update)

PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri S.M. Nasimuddin S.M. Amin, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the Naza Group, passed away of lung cancer in California at 1.15am (Malaysian time). He was 54 years old.

The low-profile businessman founded the Naza Group in 1974, starting his automobile business with an allocation of Approved Permits (APs) to import foreign cars.

He made his first million in about a year.

The Group now has 14 business divisions covering industries such as cigarette distribution, credit and leasing, engineering, hotels, insurance, machine tools and parts, manufacturing, motorcycles, property, transport services, plantations and water craft.

Last month it ventured into the food business by launching the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant and Market, but still remains most known for its automotive business, holding the local franchise for South Korea's Kia and France's Peugeot, as well as import permits for Mercedes Benz and Mazda.

Nasimuddin was implicated in the AP controversy of 2005, when he was dubbed the "AP King."

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described Nasimuddin as an example of the New Economic Policy's (NEP) success, Bernama reported.

He said Nasimuddin had an extraordinary approach in developing his business, starting with selling imported used cars from Japan and then going on to collaborating with foreign companies to produce and sell local cars under his own brand name.

"He proved that the NEP was capable of producing successful bumiputras if they seized the available opportunities well. If all had the same opportunities and did what he had done, we may have achieved more than the NEP objectives," Dr Mahathir told Bernama.

Former International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said the nation has lost a succesful Malaysia corporate leader and he should be an example to all.

“I know him well and understood his spirit of innovation, as well as his forward-looking view. He saw opportunities and strove hard to realise them,” she said, according to the national news agency.

Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) managing director Datuk Syed Hafiz Syed Abu Bakar Nasimuddin as a successful pioneer and entreprenuer, as proven by his success in making the Naza Group a respected automotive group in Malaysia and overseas.

Syed Hafiz said Nasimuddin also cared very much about the development of the domestic automotive sector, including Perodua, although he had his own big business empire.

He had been receiving treatment for cancer at a private hospital in Long Beach since January this year, Bernama reported, adding that his wife Puan Sri Zaleha Ismail and children were by his side when he passed away at about 9am Pacific time Thursday morning.

The Malaysian Islamic Society of North America will prepare his remains and hold a prayer at the Islamic Centre. His remains will be embalmed and sealed in a casket to be flown home.

The funeral is expected to be held in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.