As the head of YTL Corporation and the driving force behind one of Asia’s most successful businesses, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh has become an icon on the Malaysian economic front. From changing Kuala Lumpur’s retail landscape, particularly the famed Bukit Bintang area, building significant landmarks, notching several firsts in various sectors to bringing Malaysia to the world through YTL’s major investments abroad, he is acknowledged as one of Malaysia’s most influential corporate figures.
Guided by Faith It is a known fact that Yeoh holds true to his faith and it is probably the reason that YTL has grown a reputation as being a corporation with integrity and which sticks to its principles. “To make anything work in this life, for so-called success, it takes a trillion probabilities. It is impossible to put it together and claim that you did it or that you planned it. Everything is called God’s tapestry and he embroiders people, time and probabilities together. People always ask me what my secret of success is and I give back the truth humbly and truthfully; my secret is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yeoh sums up his thoughts on happiness, “What do we know about beauty in our lives? Those who chase the wrong end of the stick, who chase after material things will end up being disappointed. Humans like to chase after happiness, not God, but if you chase after happiness you end up being very sad Happiness is a by-product of chasing God.“...
Francis Yeoh's broad perspectives are the takeaways from his insatiable intellectual appetite.With such a weighty portfolio on his back, those who aren't well-acquainted with Yeoh might not have guessed the aggressive reader that he is, nor how he makes time for the hobby.
His penchant for reading is telling of his wiring and ideologies. The man is an intellectual, with the uncanny ability to make random scientific points appealing.
"Did you know that people used plants to tell time' before it was invented the way we know it?"
"Have you ever wondered why waves are humbled on the beach?"
He actually knows the answers.
Yeoh's study at home, where this conversation takes place, is lined with tall wooden shelves that house his precious books. Neat stacks of books sit on his desk and the coffee table, the majority of them not contemporary. Most are great literary works of the 1700s to 1900s; Charles Spurgeon, CS Lewis, Charles Wesley, John Stott, you name it, Yeoh is well acquainted with their work. "These are great minds who have spent their lives talking to scientists, trying to find answers to the great mysteries of science, and finding God in the answers," he says.
Some of these books were bid at auctions, and from the look of some of them very, very archaic Yeoh has spent a fortune on the collection. They have been a worthwhile purchase for him, food for his voracious appetite for knowledge and a deeper understanding of his spiritual journey. "Which book can you read a thousand times over and still find fascinating?" he says in reference to the Christian Bible.
And he is highly selective, only reading books of authors whose lives he deems worthy of his attention. The discerning reader enjoys the work of Chicago award-winning Lee Strobel, a cynical attorney-turned-journalist who wrote two powerful books debunking the concept of evolution and explaining the Big Bang Theory after interviewing Christian scientists around the world. Yeoh read fiction in his youth but finds that those authors are unable to sustain his intellectual curiosity. "It can't complete me," he says. "When there is so much wonder in this world, so much to take in, I'm sorry, I don't have the time for anything less."...
Yeoh reveals that the UK, Singapore and Australia are still the YTL group's favourite markets to do business, given their transparent and investor-friendly regulatory frameworks. "We want transparent regulatory comfort. I think the rule of law is a premium that people tend to underestimate," Yeoh argues, emphasising that transparency and openness are keys to driving private sector growth....
Group managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh says: "We are clear about this. We see ourselves as merely stewards of the company, with the responsibility to manage our daily business affairs in a manner that will bring glory to God." A proclamation uttered almost 10 years ago at the London Business School when he was addressing senior executives at a Creative Leadership programme "It is God who writes the script and I am just a little willing pencil." is still fresh in the memory of many....
There are a few who are very upfront about their Christian faith. Tan Sri Francis Yeoh is most outspoken about his faith, giving glory to our Lord Jesus at almost every opportunity. Datuk Tony and Datin Alicia Tiah have appeared on Malaysian television singing gospel songs, and Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng is well known as a Christian leader. We need more Christians in business to stand up openly and aggressively for Jesus, not just in church but in the marketplace....
The theatre opened up with the fanfare of bright lights, the tensed announcements of the MC, and the arrival of the dignitaries, before the MD of YTL Corporation, Tan Sri Francis Yeoh came upon the stage. We know him to be a Christian, and a supporter of the FGBMF in Malaysia and who had shared his testimony at the FGB (S) function in Singapore. But we were taken aback, when in his opening address, he gave Praise to Jesus, and thanked Him and gave a flying kiss with his hand to the Lordship of Jesus, his God. He did it in public, not bothered or intimidated at what people may say. That caught us off guard, and realized that truly it is this dependence in the Lordship of Jesus and independent of the dos and ways of men, that brought him phenomenal success....
A civil engineer, Mr Francis Yeoh took over the running of YTL in 1978 and grew it into a global conglomerate comprising six listed companies, which will soon be down to five as it is in the midst of privatising YTL Cement through a share swap. They have a combined market capitalisation of more than RM34 billion.
A decade ago, the group was completely reliant on its Malaysian business. Today, it derives more than 75 per cent of its revenue from abroad. The plan to hedge the group's business took place steadily and with calculation over a decade.
Mr Yeoh's penchant for scooping up valuable assets in distressed times and turning them into gems in the cash-plump stable is widely known.
Ruth and Joshua are only two of a batch of 27 of the YTL bloodline (YTL stands for Yeoh Tiong Lay - founder of the group and the elder Mr Yeoh's father) pottering about in the many units that represent the smorgasbord of businesses held under the sprawling YTL umbrella which spans Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Australia and Britain.
'They belong to the generation that tasted some wealth yet competed for the best universities on their own strength. That's the first test of meritocracy. All 27 of them have not been mollycoddled. That's my greatest joy,' says Mr Yeoh.
The delegation of key tasks is very much a work in progress. In November last year, Ms Kemmy Tan, who joined YTL Group's Singapore property development arm in 2008, was appointed chief executive officer of YTL Land & Development.
In 2009, YTL Communications appointed Wing K. Lee as CEO to oversee the launch of the group's first step into telecommunications: its 4G mobile Internet services with a catchy 'Yes' ring to it....
AVID watch collector Tan Sri Francis Yeoh is clearly smitten with a luxury watch label for women.Yeoh, who is the YTL Corporation Bhd managing director, has been collecting pieces from Bedat & Co for their beauty.The most precious thing about a watch for Yeoh is the concept of time as it reminds him of the short time that he has in life.
“You have to use time well and a timepiece is also a reminder of the limited time you have to do the right thing in life, and when you do that, you have eternal time with God,” he said.
The devoutly Christian Malaysian-Chinese tycoon tells Rahul Jacob why religion is an important part of his management style.
Francis Yeoh is explaining the management philosophy that guides his conglomerate’s hotel business when the conversation takes an unexpected turn. The YTL managing director is on stage at a large hotel investment conference in Hong Kong with 150 executives from Asia and the US in the audience....