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Based on Forbes Malaysia’s 50 richest list for 2023, Chen was the seventh wealthiest man in the country, with a net worth of US$2.8 billion (RM13.06 billion) as at May 31 this year.

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 11): Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp Ltd — the largest gaming entertainment company in the Mekong Region — on Monday confirmed the passing away of its founder and senior chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Chen Lip Keong.

“The board of directors of NagaCorp announces with great sadness that Dr Chen, the senior CEO of the group and an executive director of the company, passed away on Dec 8 (last Friday) due to illness,” according to an announcement published on the company’s portal and the website of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEX).

“On behalf of all employees of the group, the board would like to express its deepest sorrow on the passing away of Dr Chen, and convey its deepest condolences to his family. The board would also like to express its heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Dr Chen for his invaluable leadership, guidance and contribution to the group during his tenure of office,” it stated.

NagaCorp said Chen had established a solid foundation of the group after more than 28 years of steady growth, while his many years of entrepreneurial, business and managerial experiences had been instrumental to the group’s success.

“Under Dr Chen’s visionary leadership, the group has been achieving remarkable growth and development after years of careful navigation of the business and skillful and strategic management,” it elaborated.

Meanwhile, NagaCorp’s board announced the re-designation of executive director Chen Yiy Fon, one of the founder's sons, as the new group CEO — effective on Sunday — to assume leadership of the company, and to assume the duties and responsibilities previously held by the late casino tycoon.

Yiy Fon previously served as the CEO — operations of the company since April 5, 2022.

NagaCorp further said the company will continue its business operations by adhering to the business strategies laid down by the board.

“The board is of the view that the passing away of Dr Chen will not have any material impact on the operations of the group,” it added.

Meanwhile, FACB Industries Incorporated Bhd, a Bursa Malaysia-listed mattress company owned by Chen, in a separate filing with Bursa acknowledged the late businessman for his contributions and leadership over his 29 years with the group.

“On behalf of all the employees of the group, the board expresses its deepest sorrow over the death of Tan Sri Dr Chen Lip Keong, and conveys its condolences to his family,” said the group on Monday. Chen was the group's executive president.

Citing sources, Chinese newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau on Sunday reported that Chen had died at the age of 75 in the US, but the cause of death was unknown.

Currently, Chen’s body is reportedly still in the US, pending certain procedures before being repatriated to Malaysia.

Nanyang Siang Pau also reported that Chen suffered a stroke more than 10 years ago, but it is not yet confirmed whether his cause of death was related to a heart condition.

Based on Forbes Malaysia’s 50 richest list for 2023, Chen was the seventh wealthiest man in the country, with a net worth of US$2.8 billion (RM13.06 billion) as at May 31 this year.

He was featured on the cover of Forbes Asia in 2018.

His real time net worth of US$1.3 billion also made him the 2,119th richest man in the world as of Monday.

NagaCorp’s stock price had declined by 54% year-to-date and 30% over the past six months to close at HK$3.26 last Friday, giving it a market capitalisation of HK$14.42 billion (RM8.61 billion).

Chen graduated as a medical doctor from University of Malaya, but pursued a career in business. He founded NagaCorp in 1995.

The prominent Chinese phrase — “Fierce dragon crossing the river” — perfectly encapsulates Dr Chen’s journey, considering his role as the founder of NagaCorp, a company named after the dragon, and the fact that he initiated his business in the river.

“Fierce dragon crossing the river” is often used metaphorically to describe someone who is able to overcome difficulties with great strength and determination, especially in an unfamiliar place.

In the early days, NagaCorp launched casino operations on a leased barge on the Bassac River near Phnom Penh's Royal Palace in 1995. About five years later, NagaCorp bought land near the barge dock and began building NagaWorld, and the casino moved onshore in 2003.

Today, NagaWorld — operated by NagaCorp — holds a casino licence that is good for 70 years, and includes a 51-year monopoly within a 200km radius of Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. The licence runs until 2065, with a guaranteed monopoly to 2045.

NagaWorld is the largest casino resort in the Indo-China region. In November 2017, Naga 2 opened across the street, connected by underground mall NagaCity Walk.

In 2006, NagaCorp became the first gaming initial public offering on the HKEX, and was the first foreign-owned company with operations in Cambodia ever listed overseas.

In April 2022, Chen became the senior CEO and appointed three of his sons — Yiy Fon, Chen Cherchi and Chen Yiy Hwuan — as CEOs overseeing operations, finance and hotels respectively.

Closer to home, Chen controlled Karambunai Corp Bhd, a resort operator and hospitality company that was delisted in 2019, as well as Petaling Tin Bhd, a property developer and investment group that was delisted in 2018.

Edited BySurin Murugiah
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