Who Is This OBS?

Facebook/S Iswaran

Dato’ Ong Beng Seng (pic – right) is a Singapore-based Malaysian billionaire businessman and husband of Christina Ong.

The ‘discreet and secretive’ OBS, as he is more commonly known as, began his trading career at Kuo International, before founding Hotel Properties Limited.

In Malaysia, Ong is synonymous with building the Hard Rock brand name along with Hard Rock Hotel Bali, Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya and Hard Rock Hotel Penang which is managed by HPL Hotels & Resorts. A hospitality management company, HPL Hotels & Resorts is a subsidiary of Singapore public-listed company Hotel Properties Limited (HPL). It also runs Hard Rock Cafe outlets in South-east Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

He also owns stake in the Four Season Hotels chain and in the early 1990s, opened the Hot Gossip discotheque, established Hard Rock Cafes in Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur, and acquired franchises for Häagen-Dazs ice cream in Singapore and Malaysia.

HPL – a conglomerate with interests in hotel ownership, management and operation; property development; and investment holding, reportedly holds a portfolio of 38 hotels and resorts across 15 countries including Italy, the Maldives and Vanuatu. Brands within the portfolio include Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Hard Rock Hotels and Marriott International.

The incorporation of Hotel Properties in 1980 and its subsequent listing two years later marked the beginning of Ong’s move into the property, hotel, retail and lifestyle sectors.

The company quickly acquired properties and hotels, especially those at prime locations on Orchard Road, and formed a joint venture with a popular chain of hotels in 1984. Globally, it also acquired hotels in cities such as London, Montreal, Texas and Perth.

In Singapore, the group has 3 hotels in its portfolio – among them being Concorde- all in the vicinity of Orchard Road. HPL also has commercial and retail properties along the shopping belt, including Forum The Shopping Mall, and shop units at Concorde Shopping Mall.

In 2014, Ong and two others acquired the entire equity interest in Langkah Bahagia Sdn Bhd from Lutfiah Ismail, a close associate of former Malaysian finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin.

In 1972, Ong joined Motor & General Underwriters Investment Holdings Ltd, which later became part of the well-known Slater Walker empire after the latter acquired a significant stake in Haw Par Securities. Ong’s remarkable skills and expertise led to his appointment to the board of Haw Par Securities a mere year after Slater Walker took control.

Today, he controls many businesses, including a few based-on Bond Street in London, and his investments are worth tens of millions of dollars. He is a well-established hotelier, having bought and built many hotels worldwide. Ong is credited as one of the few who brought the Singapore Grand Prix to the country, the first Formula One night race.

A “glitzy figure in Singapore and abroad”, Ong’s business approach has been said to be “buy when rents and properties are cheap and sell when they are not.”

OBS, a Malaysian citizen who now lives in Singapore where he has many investments in luxury hotels, real estate to steel. Has joint venture with Giorgio Armani to double number of A/X shops worldwide. Ong also owned a charter airline called Region Air. In the financial services sector, Ong and his wife acquired a 49 per cent stake in stockbroker J. Ballas. However, their acquisition of the Brash’s musical equipment chain proved less successful and eventually weighed down HPL’s earnings in Australia.

Ong is not a self-made man. He was born into money in Malaysia, moving with his family to Singapore when he was four years old. His first business venture was in shipping insurance where he began to make a fortune. Then he married into more money. His wife Christina’s father, Peter Fu Yun Siak, founded and still heads the Kuo International trading group in Singapore which started off trading in timber and wax before moving into oil.

Forbes estimates the net worth of Ong and his wife Christina Ong at $1.75 billion as of September 2022, making them the 24th richest people in Singapore.

Ong, who is the driving force behind the city state’s hosting of Formula One grand prix racing, has been served with a “notice of arrest” linked to the corruption probe involving Transport Minister S. Iswaran, his company said on Friday (July 14).

In a notice to the Singapore Exchange on Friday morning, Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) said it had been informed by Ong, 77, that he had been directed by Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) to provide more information on his interactions with Iswaran.

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