Monday, June 8, 2015

8 wise lessons on wealth that Peter Lim can teach us

Monday, Jun 08, 2015
Jolene Hee
Vulcan Post

Now a tycoon with a net worth of S$3 billion and the 11th richest man in Singapore, Peter Lim is a classic rags-to-riches story if ever there was one.

The notoriously reclusive billionaire came from humble roots - his mother was a housewife and his father a fishmonger. Lim studied in Raffles Institution and struggled to put himself through university in Perth by working odd jobs as a taxi driver, cook and waiter.

What a long way the self-made billionaire - who made the bulk of his wealth investing in palm oil - has come since then.

In 2010, the renowned philanthropist donated S$10 million in scholarship funds to the Singapore Olympic Foundation, and in October last year, Lim forked out S$605 million to buy over Spanish football club Valencia and revive the club's ailing fortunes - just some of the more high-profile transactions he has conducted over the years.

While the magnate usually keeps well away from the media limelight, his thoughts on everything from investment to meritocracy have made their way into the public sphere over the years.

Here're some of his best ideas on wealth, happiness and giving back.

•The Singaporean has come to be dubbed a lucky charm because Valencia won five of the six matches he watched, including a 2-1 beating of mighty Real Madrid in January.

•The low-profile billionaire and former "remisier king", who shuns publicity at home and almost never gives interviews, gets rock-star treatment in Valencia.

•Last Oct 25, after his purchase of the ailing 95-year-old club was sealed, the street leading to the stadium's main grandstand was lined with thousands of supporters who twirled their scarves and chanted his name.

•Last week, his first comments to The Straits Times as Valencia owner were widely covered in Spanish dailies, which featured pictures of him and his wife, and mentioned on television and radio.

•His 23-year-old socialite daughter, Kim, is recognised on the streets of Valencia and fans go up to her with photo requests.

•His rags-to-riches story as the fishmonger's son who made good was fascinating, but Valencia players and staff did not know what to expect, given how some billionaire club owners in Europe brandish the axe as soon as they appear.

•German centre-back Shkrodan Mustafi said: "Mr Lim never came over and said, 'You must win La Liga.' He knows what's possible and what's not.

•He didn't come in and sack a lot of people immediately.

•In person, he is really relaxed and he enjoys being a part of this team. As for the players, it is always an honour to have him visit us in the dressing room."

•Mr Ng Ser Miang, head of the International Olympic Committee's finance commission and a Valencia board member, who has known Mr Lim for two decades, said: "Valencia is one of the oldest clubs in Spain. And a Singaporean has put the country on the world football map by owning a piece of European football history.

•"You can see that the fans and the city's people really welcome and respect Peter. That is because of his commitment to Valencia."

•Estimated by Forbes to be worth US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion), Mr Lim turns 62 this year. His home in Singapore is the entire 11-storey Abelia condominium, near Orchard Road.

•He counts as friends Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, former Manchester United favourite David Beckham, super agent Jorge Mendes, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and United's Class of 92 such as Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Neville brothers Gary and Phil.

1. Fortune is 90 per cent hard work, 10 per cent providence

Interestingly, while Lim got where he is today through a mixture of savvy investing and sheer grit, the self-made mogul also believes that his enormous wealth can be attributed in some way to destiny.

"This size - substantially, it's your destiny. If today I have $10 million, I'd say over 90 per cent is due to my hard work. But getting it right is not $1 billion. Maybe it's $100 million. How that $100 million becomes $1 billion, you know it's because somebody likes you. You must believe it's somehow a path that's been drawn."

(Source: The Business Times, AsiaOne News)

2. Accept the good and bad with equanimity

The former 'Remisier King' is fabled for his unflappable, almost casual attitude towards money and investing. When Singapore's stock market nosedived back in 2007, he described the resultant erosion of more than $100 million of his stock's value as merely a "paper loss".

"When you are holding stocks, if it goes up, don't be too happy; when it goes down, don't be too sad. Otherwise, how? Your life will also be fluctuating and you'll die of a heart attack.

If you really lose sleep over it, maybe the best way is to keep the money in the bank."

(Source: Weekender)

What he does lose sleep over, he revealed, are "My kids. Like other parents, I worry about what they're doing and whether they'll pass their exams." It's clear that whatever his accomplishments, being a devoted father unquestionably comes first for Lim.

3. More money, more problems

The twice-married Lim, who divorced ex-wife of 12 years Venus Tan in the 1990s, believes that his astronomical wealth created more trouble in his personal life. The divorce was reportedly a messy one, involving a high-profile settlement of S$50 million and prolonged entanglements about Lim's alleged hiding of assets.

"Money is a funny thing. When you don't have it, you want it. But when you have it, you have a lot of problems. I believe that if I'd had no money, I wouldn't have had my divorce. Things wouldn't be good, but it wouldn't end up in a divorce."

(Source: The Business Times, AsiaOne News)

4. After a point, money doesn't translate to a better life

Despite the luxurious lifestyle he now has the means to lead - the tycoon lives with his wife and mother in an entire 11-storey condominium at Ardmore Park - Lim emphasises that there comes a point when extra wealth is meaningless.

"It's no different from what it was before I had the money. It makes no difference after a point. Like what they say, you can only talk louder. You can only eat so much and fly so many trips.

Money lets you enjoy a lot of things, but I don't think I'll die without money.

I don't think I'm eating a lot better than when I was a lot poorer than now. I don't really go for very special kinds of food. I'm still very local. I like my mee siam, mee rebus and lontong."

(Source: The New Paper,

5. Opposites do attract

When asked why he fell in love with his current wife, ex-actress Cherie Lim, the wealthy magnate had this to say:

"I came from the side of life that was very commercial, very money oriented. She comes from an artistic, more simple way of life. To put it bluntly, it was the difference of the rich and the poor."

(Source: The New Paper,

It's clear that despite his rumoured stable of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, and the prominent string of buyovers, including Thomson Medical Group and McLaren Automative, to his name, the self-professed "son of a fishmonger" remains attracted to a simple life at heart.

6. Those who succeed must pass it on

Born and bred in Singapore, and bolstered by the opportunities afforded to him by our meritocratic system, Lim has made it one of his life missions to give back.

Some of the ways the local philanthropist has supported needy students so far include pledging a six-figure sum to the mini rugby academy of his alma mater, Raffles Institution, and committing to fund scholarships and financial aid at four Singapore schools.

His dedication to giving others the opportunities he had is encapsulated by this statement he made in 2007:

"I think it's very likely (that) a big part of my wealth will be directed towards education. It will be either a straight donation towards assisting educational institutions or maybe I'll set up a foundation.

Education must be cheap and accessible to anyone. For me, I was the son of a fishmonger, but I could still go to the best school. I had the opportunity to make money. There's no discrimination. I think this policy of meritocracy actually works. It's very fair and nobody can complain."

(Source: The New Paper,

7. Take risks (but protect yourself)

Much of Lim's wealth was the product of an unlikely venture. His single investment of US$10 million in Wilmar, an Indonesian palm oil startup, seemed far from promising in the late 90s, when Indonesia was facing political and social unrest.

At the time, the currency fell from 2,500 to 16,000 rupiah against the US dollar. But against all odds, Wilmar began to pick up the pieces and Lim's faith in the company paid off - in 2010, he cashed out his shares for US$1.5 billion.

"My Indonesian partner was asking me the other day: 'How the hell did we make so much money?'

Up to a point after people tell you a story and a vision, don't write it off. Sometimes it comes true. You just make sure that if it doesn't come true, you don't get hurt too much."

(Source: The Business Times, AsiaOne News)

8. On growing old and mortality

All things considered, the 62-year-old Lim has lived a fruitful and well-spent life, and it's evident that he's achieved a more philosophical outlook on living. Asked for his thoughts on ageing and death, he remarked:

"Once you are old, every year makes a lot of difference. Your lease gets shorter, there's no extension. You go, you go. Some of my school mates have passed away. So once you start to see all these things, your perspective on life becomes more measured, more considered."

(Source: The Business Times, AsiaOne News)

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