Indonesia’s Richest 2019: Sinar Mas Founder Widjaja Leaves Solid Legacy

Eka Tjipta

Eka Tjipta Widjaja

Courtesy Sinar Mas

This story is part of Forbes' coverage of Indonesia’s Richest 2019. See full coverage of this list here.

Eka Tjipta Widjaja, founder of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas, passed away in January at 98, leaving behind a solid family business that has survived economic turmoil to thrive. Sinar Mas is now one of the largest business groups in Indonesia, with interests at home and abroad in agribusiness, food, communications, tech, financial services, healthcare, mining, energy, property, paper and more. The group’s Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), for example, has manufacturing operations across Indonesia and China and sells its products in more than 120 countries on six continents.

Widjaja, born in Quanzhou, China as Oei Ek Tjhong, moved to Indonesia with his family as a child and started Sinar Mas in 1938 as a 15-year-old living in Makassar.

In 1972, he set up a factory to produce sodium bicarbonate, which later became Sinar Mas’ first paper company, Tjiwi Kimia. The same year he expanded into real estate with Duta Pertiwi, whose subsidiary Bumi Serpong Damai is now one of Indonesia’s largest property companies by market capitalization.

More on Forbes: Indonesia's Richest 2019: Nation's Wealthiest See Gains Despite Subdued Year

Widjaja first appeared on the Billionaires list in 1991, one of only three Indonesian billionaires on the list at the time, and was the longest surviving member of that trio (the other two were Liem Sioe Liong and William Soeryadjaya).

Sinar Mas’ expansion over the years was interrupted only by the Asian financial crisis in 1998, when it took a big hit. In 1999, group debts stood at $13.5 billion, forcing Widjaja to hand over its Bank Internasional Indonesia to the government. The debt default of its APP paper unit was also one of the largest of the crisis. To recover, Widjaja paid down debt and expanded into mining and telecom. In 2005, the group reentered banking by acquiring Bank Shinta and renaming it Bank Sinarmas.

Sinar Mas remains innovative. In 2012, Sinar Mas became one of the first family-run groups to invest in digital startups, starting a partnership with East Ventures, one of Indonesia’s first VC firms. In 2018, the group’s own VC arm, Sinar Mas Digital Ventures (SMDV), teamed up with East and Yahoo Japan Capital to create EV Growth to invest in existing startups looking for new capital to expand.

More on Forbes: Indonesia's Richest 2019: Jokowi Needs To Boost Growth In His Second Term

Widjaja had two wives: Trini Dewi Lasuki and Mellie Pirieh Widjaja. Much of Sinar Mas is today run by four of his sons by his first wife, and by their own children. Teguh Ganda Wijaya, Eka’s firstborn, manages APP. Indra Widjaja oversees the group’s investments in financial services and mining. Indra’s firstborn, Fuganto Widjaja, is CEO of Golden Energy Mines. Muktar Widjaja handles the property businesses. And Franky Oesman Widjaja controls Sinar Mas’ agricultural and food business under Golden Agri-Resources. He also manages the telecom and tech businesses. Contacted by Forbes Asia, Sinar Mas said none of the children was available for comment.

Some of Widjaja’s children have also built their own businesses. Oei Hong Leong is a Singapore-based billionaire, with a net worth estimated at $1.4 billion. Frankle Djafar Widjaja manages Singapore-listed investment company Bund Center Investment and Sukmawati Widjaja runs another Singapore property company, Top Global.

Post Written by Ulisari Eslita

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This story is part of Forbes' coverage of Indonesia’s Richest 2019. See full coverage of this list here.

Eka Tjipta Widjaja, founder of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas, passed away in January at 98, leaving behind a solid family business that has survived economic turmoil to thrive. Sinar Mas is now one of the largest business groups in Indonesia, with interests at home and abroad in agribusiness, food, communications, tech, financial services, healthcare, mining, energy, property, paper and more. The group’s Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), for example, has manufacturing operations across Indonesia and China and sells its products in more than 120 countries on six continents.

Widjaja, born in Quanzhou, China as Oei Ek Tjhong, moved to Indonesia with his family as a child and started Sinar Mas in 1938 as a 15-year-old living in Makassar.

In 1972, he set up a factory to produce sodium bicarbonate, which later became Sinar Mas’ first paper company, Tjiwi Kimia. The same year he expanded into real estate with Duta Pertiwi, whose subsidiary Bumi Serpong Damai is now one of Indonesia’s largest property companies by market capitalization.

More on Forbes: Indonesia's Richest 2019: Nation's Wealthiest See Gains Despite Subdued Year

Widjaja first appeared on the Billionaires list in 1991, one of only three Indonesian billionaires on the list at the time, and was the longest surviving member of that trio (the other two were Liem Sioe Liong and William Soeryadjaya).

Sinar Mas’ expansion over the years was interrupted only by the Asian financial crisis in 1998, when it took a big hit. In 1999, group debts stood at $13.5 billion, forcing Widjaja to hand over its Bank Internasional Indonesia to the government. The debt default of its APP paper unit was also one of the largest of the crisis. To recover, Widjaja paid down debt and expanded into mining and telecom. In 2005, the group reentered banking by acquiring Bank Shinta and renaming it Bank Sinarmas.

Sinar Mas remains innovative. In 2012, Sinar Mas became one of the first family-run groups to invest in digital startups, starting a partnership with East Ventures, one of Indonesia’s first VC firms. In 2018, the group’s own VC arm, Sinar Mas Digital Ventures (SMDV), teamed up with East and Yahoo Japan Capital to create EV Growth to invest in existing startups looking for new capital to expand.

More on Forbes: Indonesia's Richest 2019: Jokowi Needs To Boost Growth In His Second Term

Widjaja had two wives: Trini Dewi Lasuki and Mellie Pirieh Widjaja. Much of Sinar Mas is today run by four of his sons by his first wife, and by their own children. Teguh Ganda Wijaya, Eka’s firstborn, manages APP. Indra Widjaja oversees the group’s investments in financial services and mining. Indra’s firstborn, Fuganto Widjaja, is CEO of Golden Energy Mines. Muktar Widjaja handles the property businesses. And Franky Oesman Widjaja controls Sinar Mas’ agricultural and food business under Golden Agri-Resources. He also manages the telecom and tech businesses. Contacted by Forbes Asia, Sinar Mas said none of the children was available for comment.

Some of Widjaja’s children have also built their own businesses. Oei Hong Leong is a Singapore-based billionaire, with a net worth estimated at $1.4 billion. Frankle Djafar Widjaja manages Singapore-listed investment company Bund Center Investment and Sukmawati Widjaja runs another Singapore property company, Top Global.

Post Written by Ulisari Eslita