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Tan Sri Francis Yeoh - the great engineering intelligence

   

For all his achievements, he humbly says, "I'm a mere steward of God's will, I'm a willing pencil. I claim nothing in my success, although I do work very, very hard."

Kuala Lumpur, 11 March 2006

Source: Learn From Successful Entrepreneurs Part 2...

"Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to be come what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality." - Tan Sri Francis Yeoh

Tan Sri (Dr) Francis Yeoh is the group managing director of YTL empire, the listed infrastructure company with a market capitalization of 6.8 billion. Some consider him to be "one of the world's greatest business leaders of the modern era." In fact, Francis Yeoh has established himself as one of Malaysia's ablest businessman and a drive force of the nation's vibrancy.

Francis Yeoh inherited his father's company at the impressionable age of 25, and turned it to an unstoppable profit machine. The company was founded by his father Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, hence the group's name YTL. Francis became the managing director of YTL Corporation Bhd Group in 1988, and under his stewardship, the group has grown from a single listed entity in 1985 to a force comprising five listed companies.

His father Tan Sri Yeoh, 76, is a chartered builder with 51 years of extensive experience and knowledge of construction methodology, an entrepreneur of remarkable accomplishment and a prominent leader in the Malaysian construction industry as well as in the Asia and Western Pacific regions. It was his father's wisdom and abounding experience that successfully groomed him to propel the group to new heights. His father was honored by the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI), Malaysia Chapter with the prestigious Award of Distinction 2003 for Property Man of the Year. The function was even touted as the "Oscar Night" by the Malaysian real estate industry. YTL group owes much of its success to the drive and foresight of its founder Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay.

Francis Yeoh's entrepreneurial drive is attributed to the migrant mentality of his father who came to Malaya in 1920 from the Fujian province in China. Without any education or kin, the early migrant's only security was in material wealth. Their only object was to create not just business, but a family enterprise; a family fortress.

Today, boasting as much as 60 per cent profit growth in the fiscal year ending June 2004, YTL Corporation has core business that run the gamut from power, cement, construction, property, retail, to arts and culture, and high Speed Rail (The modern Express Rail from Kuala Lumpur Central to the International Airport is owed by YTL). And the braind behind all these is Francis Yeoh. "My only idea of sightseeing was touring construction sites, not Disnelyland," said Francis of some of his earliest memories. "Today, I can detect the amount of sand in concrete merely by the feel and can quickly spot sloppy contracting work."

He graduated in the field of civil engineering from UK's Kingston University in 1978. He has labeled 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." This comment is not far off from a self-description, but that is not the whole picture. He always believed, with deep respect and reverence to global statesmen, what Auden said, "The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists."

Fresh out of college, he bought a then-relatively unknown listed company called Hongkong Tin, based in London, for RM45 million. Tan Sri Yeoh was confident of its success, when many thought he was merely blowing his trumpet. In 1988, it was injected into listed Hong Kong Tin Corporation (M), giving birth to YTL Corporation. In less then 10 years, when his detractors have walked into the sunset, he has been the driving force behind the development of Hongkong Tin into a part of his empire.

Francis Yeoh indeed stands out in pleasing contrast amidst a sea of faceless others who are merely focused on churning out profits. 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'.

He gave the Actors Studio a 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. YTL also looks after KLPac's design as well as the administration of the facility. It is 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. He 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. In spite of his business achievements, the highlight of his life was when he hosted a concert of YTL's private island of Pangkor Laut with guest singer Luciano Pavarotti in 1993.

Tan Sri Yeoh collected an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Engineering from his alma mater in 2004 in recognition of his prowess as an internationally savvy conglomerate-builder. "We must not only harness the mind, we must also harness our hearts to re-engineer the world of man and bring it back to sanity and productive endeavour. Let us not suffer from spiritual amnesia. Let us build together a lasting world full of goodness, an everlasting Empire of the Mind with Hear." He received a rousing ovation at the end of his acceptance speech.

Tan Sri Yeoh won the Ernst & Young Master Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2002, and was awarded the BusinessWeek's "25 Stars of Asia 2003" in November, 2003 in Hong Kong. He was ranked 21 by Fortune Magazine's Asia's 25 Most Powerful Business Personalities in August 2004.

For all his achievements, he humbly says, "I'm a mere steward of God's will, I'm a willing pencil. I claim nothing in my success, although I do work very, very hard." He delivers what he promises, and he does it all with more than just technology and financial finesse.





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