Liem Sioe Liong, who used his ties to former dictator Suharto to build a small peanut oil business into leading Indonesian conglomerate Salim Group, has died aged 97.
The Chinese-born tycoon, whose Indonesian name was Soedono Salim and whose group is now one of Asia’s biggest businesses, passed away in Singapore on Sunday, a statement from Indofood, one of his companies, said on Tuesday.
“The Soedono Salim that we know personally is a visionary, simple, humble, tenacious, hardworking, disciplined and loyal,” said the statement.
Salim Group businesses range from Indofood, the world’s largest maker of noodles, to telecoms, property and palm oil plantations.
The group includes Hong Kong-based First Pacific which operates businesses in telecommunications and food, and is present in more than 40 countries.
His son Anthoni Salim, who now heads the business empire, was listed in Forbes in 2010 as Indonesia’s fifth-richest man, worth US$3 billion.
Tourism Minister Mari Elka Pangestu paid tribute to Liem: “Indonesia has lost a pioneer in the field of entrepreneurship that has contributed to the country’s development.”
Liem arrived in Indonesia from Fujian province in southeast China in 1936 to join his brother and brother-in-law in Medan, North Sumatra.
He began selling medical supplies and other items during the Indonesian war of independence against the Dutch.
It was during this period he got to know Suharto, then an army officer, and the pair formed a lifelong friendship.
Over the next 50 years, Liem built one of the most successful business groups in the country.
Following anti-government riots in 1998, which led to Suharto’s overthrow following some three decades in power, Liem fled to Singapore after his house was raided and ransacked by mobs, leaving the day-to-day running of the business to Anthoni Salim.
Pangestu said that his businesses had “contributed to development at every stage. In the early period of development, when we needed cement, he started a cement business and then foods.”
“When we entered a period of industrialisation, we needed cars and his business expanded into the automotive field, and then banking and finance,” she added.
Liem is survived by his wife Lie Las Nio, and four children — Albert Halim, Andree Halim, Anthoni Salim and Mira Salim.