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Francis Yeoh among Malaysia's Who's Who

   

Kuala Lumpur, 23 April 2005

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YTL Corporation managing director, Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh has been listed in “People at the Peak – the Who’s Who of Malaysia". The first edition publication from MI Publishing presents a comprehensive selection of personalities from royalty to entrepreneurs, sportsmen and artistes who are the driving forces of the nation’s vibrancy.

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The hardcover book also includes interviews with a select few personalities.?In addition to the special editorial interview article, Yeoh is listed in three separate categories: Business and Industry Awards, Construction and Property, and Leading Listed Companies.

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Below is the editorial interview:

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Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh

Group Managing Director

YTL Corporation Berhad

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Leading entrepreneur and billionaire Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh is no ordinary ‘suit’. He stands out in pleasing contrast amidst a sea o faceless other who are merely focused on churning out profits.

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Almost everyone would have, at some point, come across glowing tributes and lavish praise for Tan Sri Francis Yeoh's management of his father's company after inheriting it at the impressionable age of 25, and how he turned it into an unstoppable profit machine. Forget the technical-speak and the gargantuan sums of money involved. We strive to present Tan Sri Yeoh in a different, but equally bright, light.

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Boasting as much as 60 per cent profit growth in the fiscal year ending June 2004, YTL Corporation has core businesses that run the gamut from power, cement, construction, property, retail, to arts and culture. So who is the soul that feeds the brain behind all this, and what drives him?

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He is an alumnus of the class of 1978 of Kingston University in the United Kingdom in the field of civil engineering. He has labelled engineering "the most relevant of disciplines to mankind's increasing mastery of his environment, and what seemed its limitless capacity to create new wonders for the betterment of the world." Taken in a slightly different context, he is not far off from a self-description, actually – but that's not the whole picture.

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Tan Sri Yeoh can count Luciano Pavarotti and Sir Jackie Stewart (of Jaguar Racing fame) among his personal friends without so much as a trace of snobbery. It's just not his style. He is a man genuinely and deeply attached to the artistic and cultural landscape of modern Malaysia. He has been described as an 'art-loving entrepreneur', with valid basis. After arranging the momentous concert in the resort island of Pangkor Laut, a YTL gem, which reverberated to the strains of Pavarotti in 1993 – the well-read Tan Sri Yeoh, who favours W H Auden and Chet Raymo, asked himself: "What else can I do?"


   

He gave the Actors Studio sizeable space in YTL's Sentul West property development to house its operations after floods irreparably wrecked the original playhouse in Dataran Merdeka. The result is the much-anticipated Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre – or KLPAC – located in a very fine old building that used to be Sentul's railway workshop. The generosity did not end with the mere donation of the slice of property. YTL also looks after KLPAC's design as well as the administration of the facility. It was estimated that around RM25 million is involved to cover the cost of the building, the software and the first few years of operation. He is emphatic that the community project should not be seen as 'a YTL thing.'

 

"We are only one of the partners, with the Actors Studio running the KLPAC," he says.

Tan Sri Yeoh's rationale for his patronage is uncomplicated and candid: "KL is my city and I participate in its soul." He believes, too, that the arts exert a powerful unifying force among people, and hopes for KL to achieve permanent iconic stature on the global arts scene. Adding to his own iconic status as one of the most generous patrons of the arts, Tan Sri Yeoh is credited with having been President of the Kuala Lumpur Symphony Orchestra for five years. YTL has also been sponsoring the YTL-Penang Arts Festival since 2000.

 

On the global front, Tan Sri Yeoh orchestrated a performance by three famed tenors – Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras – for the city of Bath, in Wessex County in the United Kingdom, to an audience of 50,000. The fact that the supply of water came from YTL's newly-acquired Wessex Water company was a happy coincidence.

 

He loves the opera, books by C S Lewis, and food, especially pasta and noodles. Claiming to know all the best pasta restaurants in the world, Tan Sri Yeoh actually knows a lot more about restaurants and shopping malls, having given the Starhill area of KL's Golden Triangle a new lease of life.

 

The entire compound referred to by KL-ites as Starhill, a loose translation of the name of the area it sits in – Jalan Bukit Bintang – is home to not only the JW Marriott Hotel (a YTL acquisition during the 1998 recession), but also a string of impressive eateries. Human and automobile traffic is almost impossible to navigate during the weekends in this part of town, but that can only be a good thing. Starhill, labelled as a 'brand new shopping experience' during its launch in August 2002, has reflected its glory and sparkle back to its developer.

 

A devout Christian, Tan Sri Yeoh recently collected an Honorary Doctorate from his alma mater in early 2004, in recognition of his prowess as an internationally savvy conglomerate-builder. Back on home ground, he won the Ernst & Young Master Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2002. He has been branded a contrarian who has been known to pick the winning 'horse' initially spurned by others.

 

Fresh out of school, he bought a then-relatively unknown listed company called Hongkong Tin, based in London. Tan Sri Yeoh was confident of its success, when many thought he was merely blowing his trumpet. In less than 10 years, when his detractors have walked into the sunset, he has been the driving force behind the metamorphosis of Hongkong Tin into a part of his empire.

 

Yeoh's father, Yeoh Tiong Lay, started his construction business in 1955, and Tan Sri Francis Yeoh did more than merely tag on their power-producing arm (YTL was the first independent Malaysian power supplier) and acquire international outfits, or successfully re-brand one of the oldest parts of town. His efforts have been interpreted by observers as a classic case-study of putting your house in order during downtime, so as to be ready when the economy bounces back, which was exactly what he did. In the late '80s and the early '90s, he was ready for the opportunities. His house - YTL – has been streamlined, the administration and the procedures made more efficient, and the collection of data scrutinised. Tan Sri Yeoh delivers what he promises, and he does it all with more than just technology and financial finesse.

 

"We accept the fate of societies that fail to build empires of the mind. What is the fate of societies that turn their backs to build empires of the heart? A new word has gained currency in recent years – re-engineering. If we tackle the root causes of injustice and deprivation, we will create a better life for all."

Written by Amanda Suriya Ariffin




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