Forbes Asia's Annual Heroes Of Philanthropy List Highlights 30 Altruists In The Asia Pacific Region

Honorees include Jack Ma, Azim Premji and Suh Kyung-bae

SINGAPORE (December 3, 2019) – Forbes Asia today announced its annual Heroes of Philanthropy list, highlighting 30 outstanding altruists in the Asia-Pacific region. The list includes billionaires, entrepreneurs and celebrities across the region who are committed to solving some of the most pressing issues facing the Asia-Pacific. The full list can be found here and in the December issue of Forbes Asia.

To select the honorees, Forbes Asia sifted through dozens of candidates, reviewing their monetary contributions, the depth of their involvement and the reach of their philanthropic efforts. The goal is to highlight those giving their own money, not their company’s (unless they are the majority owners of a privately-held firm). The focus is on individuals who provide the capital and are personally committed to achieving a long-term vision. As always, the list features new entries, unless there has been a significant development in a previous honoree’s philanthropy that justifies a relisting. The final selection is unranked and all are considered equally honored on the list.

Azim Premji made history this year as Asia’s most generous philanthropist by giving away a chunk of his shares, worth US$7.6 billion, in tech firm Wipro to his education-centered Azim Premji Foundation. The billionaire retired in July as Wipro’s executive chairman after more than five decades at the helm and said he would focus more on philanthropy. The first Indian to sign the Giving Pledge, his total lifetime giving now stands at $21 billion.

Also making the list is Jack Ma, who recently stepped down as executive chairman of China-based internet giant Alibaba to devote more time to philanthropy. Since 2014, the Jack Ma Foundation has distributed or pledged at least $300 million to various initiatives in Africa, Australia, China and the Middle East. A former teacher, Ma has a special interest in improving education in rural and impoverished areas of China. Ma also says he hopes to do more to support women’s causes. He is featured on the cover of the December issue of Forbes Asia.

The Suh Kyung-bae Science Foundation in September awarded 10 billion won ($9 million), to be allocated over five years, to four South Korean scientists for research in neuroscience and genetics. Suh, the CEO of Amorepacific Group, established the foundation in 2016 with a personal endowment of 300 billion won. The head of South Korea’s largest cosmetics company, Suh inherited Amorepacific from his father Suh Sung-hwan, who believed that science was integral to innovation.

This year’s honorees are committed to a range of endeavors. To commemorate Singapore’s bicentennial, Tang Wee Kit, chairman of investment and property group Tang Holdings, in May donated the largest private collection of books and letters once owned by Sir Stamford Raffles to the National Museum of Singapore. Meanwhile, Judith Neilson, an Australian billionaire, set up an institute in November last year that sponsors grants, education and events to encourage quality independent journalism, including more reporting on Asia. Other honorees are working to protect wildlife, improve access to healthcare and aid the elderly.

Since 2018, Indonesian mining and agribusiness tycoon Theodore Rachmat has donated nearly $5 million toward his A&A Rachmat Compassionate Service Foundation, which supports educational opportunities, healthcare and orphanages.

Biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and her husband John Shaw donated $7.5 million to the University of Glasgow in July, the largest single donation the university has received. The couple also pledged $2 million recently to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to establish the Mazumdar-Shaw International Clinical Fellowships. Mazumdar-Shaw, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2016, has also given $3.5 million to Krea University, a new liberal arts university in southern India.

In May, Andrew and Nicola Forrest donated A$655 million ($455 million) to their Minderoo Foundation, marking Australia’s largest single gift from a living donor and taking the couple’s total giving to A$1.5 billion. The foundation supports cancer research, early childhood development, indigenous equality, healthy oceans and the elimination of modern slavery.

The Tanoto siblings, Belinda and Anderson, lead their family’s philanthropy through the Tanoto Foundation. The family donated $16.7 million this year, up 30% from 2018, primarily to support and provide education for all, from early childhood to university.

Rita Tong Liu, Hong Kong’s fourth-richest woman, marked her 70th birthday in June last year by giving HK$80 million ($10 million) to the Catholic-run Caritas Institute of Higher Education through her family’s L&T Charitable Foundation. The funds will be used to help the school evolve into Hong Kong’s first Catholic university.

Thippaporn Ahriyavraromp, the daughter of Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, has been a lifelong champion of philanthropy and is devoted to causes in education, the environment and healthcare. She channels 2% of the revenues from her privately held investment group, DTGO, to the education-focused Buddharaksa Foundation, which she started in 2002, and to her family’s Dhanin Tawee Chearavanont Foundation, which she chairs.

Through his eponymous foundation, Jeffrey Cheah, the chairman of Sunway Group, has donated almost $39 million since last year to fund scholarships and educational causes. Since 2009, he has gradually transferred his entire stake in Sunway Education Group - valued at more than $238 million - to the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation.

Hans Sy from the Philippines helped launch Child Haus’ newly renovated center in Quezon City in July to house 40 cancer-stricken children and their caregivers; he had purchased the property for the organization as one of its first donors in 2010. Shigenobu Nagamori, founder, chairman and CEO of Nidec, donated ¥3.2 billion ($29 million) in August 2018, to build a community center in Muko, the city where he grew up. The center has a 500-seat concert hall that can also be used in emergencies to shelter about 750 people and provide bathing, cooking and sleeping facilities.

Other honorees on the list include celebrities such as South Korea’s singer and actress IU (Lee Ji Eun), who is the youngest to make this year’s list. She has given a total of 900 million won ($800,000) to a variety of causes since 2018. Angel Locsin, an actress from the Philippines, supports causes aiding victims of violence, natural disasters and the conflict in Mindanao. Yoshiki Hayashi, leader of the popular Japanese band X Japan, has contributed to causes mainly in Japan and the U.S. through his Yoshiki Foundation America. Started in 2010, the foundation has contributed to disaster relief, orphanages and treatment for children with bone-marrow disease.

 More information on the list and other related stories can be found here.

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