Grand mansions, swanky cars, lavish weddings, Michelin-star chefs at their service — they own the best and flaunt it with pride. From navigating their companies through dire straits to rolling billions, these richest Asian families know how to overcome challenges, accomplish tasks and become richer.
Here are the 10 richest families in Asia, whose wealth might give many royals a run for their money.
1) The Ambanis
It was in 1957 when the late Dhirubhai Ambani planted the seed of what would become Reliance Industries Limited. Owned by his elder son Mukesh Ambani, the multinational conglomerate has grown by leaps and bounds. The company has diversified into various sectors like petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecom and retail, which have contributed to the family’s wealth that stands at US$ 76 billion.
Over the years, the billionaire’s three children — Isha, Akash and Anant — have entered the family business. As per Forbes, Mukesh Ambani’s net worth is US$ 82.5 billion (as of 17 August 2021). The richest Asian family’s 27-storey mansion, Antilia, is one of the most expensive homes in the world.
Known for their extravagance, renowned musicians like Beyoncé and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have performed at Isha and Akash’s wedding ceremonies.
2) The Kwoks
In 1972, Kwok Tak-seng listed Sun Hung Kai Properties. The company went on to become one of the largest property developers in Hong Kong and the family’s net worth is US$ 33 billion. The patriarch passed away in 1990, handing over the reins of his firm to his three sons — Walter, Thomas and Raymond. The company has always been mired in controversies, fuelled by conflicts within the family.
Kwok’s eldest son, Walter, was kidnapped in 1997 and the other two brothers were charged with bribing a government official in 2012. While Raymond was absolved of all charges, the latter spent five years behind the bars. However, Walter was eventually ousted from the family business.
Currently, Raymond Kwok is serving as the construction giant’s chairman. He has a net worth of US$ 1.4 billion (as of 16 August 2021), according to Forbes.
3) The Chearavanonts
From starting with a vegetable seed shop in 1921 to becoming one of the largest animal feed and livestock producers in the world, as well as one of the richest asian families there is, Charoen Pokphand Group has come a long way. The family’s wealth is estimated at US$ 31.7 billion, and the company aims to become waste-free and carbon-neutral by 2030.
The Thai conglomerate covers 14 business groups, spanning across sectors of retail and distribution, media and telecommunications, property development, finance and investment, food produce, and pharmaceuticals, to name a few.
Dhanin Chearavanont is the senior chairman of the group. His net worth is US$ 14 billion (as of 16 August 2021). His eldest son Soopakij is the chairman and the youngest son, Suphachai, is the CEO.
4) The Hartonos
In 1950, Oei Wie Gwan purchased a bankrupt cigarette company and rechristened it to Djarum. Little did he know that this purchase will lead to his family amassing wealth worth US$ 31.3 billion. Djarum is one of the major cigarette producers in Indonesia.
After Oei Wie’s demise in 1963, the baton was passed to his sons R. Budi Hartono and Michael “Bambang” Hartono. Both brothers invested in Bank Central Asia (BCA) and are now co-owners of both Djarum and BCA.
According to Forbes, R. Budi Hartono’s net worth is US$ 19.1 billion while his brother’s is US$ 18.4 billion (as of 17 August 2021). They are the richest people in Indonesia, and together they form one of the richest Asian families. The duo also owns electronics brand Polytron and has investments in gaming start-up Razer.
5) The Lees
South Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung started as a trading company that earned profits through the export of farm produce and fish. Started in 1938 by Lee Byung-chull, the company soon took a different route in 1969 when Lee Byung-chull founded Samsung Electronics and the rest is history.
In 1987, his third son Lee Kun-hee took over the reins of the business as chairman after Byung-chull’s death. Samsung scaled new heights and went on to become the world’s largest memory chips and smartphones manufacturer, according to Bloomberg.
In 2012, his son Jay Y. Lee became the vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and his net worth of US$ 11.1 billion (as of 16 August 2021), as per Forbes. Lee Kun-hee passed away in 2020.
Jay Y. Lee was charged and imprisoned in 2017, for bribing an aide of former South Korea President Park Geun-hye. Although he was released in 2018, he was retried on the same charges and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison earlier this year. The top-10 richest Asian family’s wealth stands at US$ 26.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.
6) The Yoovidhyas
T.C. Pharmaceuticals came into existence in 1956, with the sole purpose of selling medicines. However, founder Chaleo Yoovidhya decided to venture into consumer goods and invented the famous Red Bull (Krating Daeng in Thai) in 1975. Soon, Austrian marketer Dietrich Mateschitz came across the drink and decided to collaborate with Yoovidhya.
The duo worked on modifying the recipe of the energy drink and marketing it globally. This partnership worked wonders for both, with the Yoovidhya family’s wealth shooting up to a whopping US$ 24.2 billion as per Forbes. At the time of his death in 2012, Yoovidhya was the third richest person in Thailand.
Eldest son Chalerm Yoovidhya took over the reins of the business and co-owns the beverage brand along with Mateschitz. The scion’s net worth (as of 6 July 2021) is US$ 24.5 billion, making his clan one of the richest Asian families.
7) The Chengs
With a wealth of US$ 22.6 billion, according to Forbes, the Cheng family dabbles in multiple businesses with Chow Tai Fook Jewellery — a subsidiary of Chow Tai Fook; Rosewood Hotels and Resorts; and real estate and infrastructure firm New World Development.
A Hong Kong-based conglomerate, Chow Tai Fook was founded by Chow Chi Yuen in 1929. His son-in-law, Cheng Yu-tung, set up New World Development in 1970.
Currently, Cheng Yu-tung’s son Henry Cheng is the chairman of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery and New World Development. According to Forbes, his net worth (as of 18 August 2021) is US$ 1 billion. To acknowledge their service towards the betterment of the region, Henry Cheng and his father both won Hong Kong’s Gold Bauhinia Star.
8) The Mistrys
Conglomerate giant Shapoorji Pallonji Group came into being in 1865 as a construction firm. The creators behind some of the epic landmarks in Mumbai, including the Reserve Bank of India building, the group has come a long way since its inception.
The family went on to make a fortune of US$ 22 billion. SP Group now owns water purifier brand Eureka Forbes and Next Gen Publishing, among many other companies. As per Forbes, chairman Pallonji Mistry’s net worth is US$ 17.3 billion (as of 16 August 2021). He has two sons: Shapoor Mistry and Cyrus Mistry.
Apart from multiple subsidiaries, the Shapoorji Pallonji Group also has an 18.4 percent stake in Tata Sons. But troubles began after Cyrus Mistry’s unceremonious removal as Tata Sons’ executive chairman in 2016. In 2020, the group expressed its decision to part ways with Tata Sons and sell its stake. Earlier this year, Tata Sons won the legal battle to decide the terms of separation.
Pao Yue-kong ventured into the shipping business in the 1960s. His World-Wide Shipping, known today as BW Group, prospered and by 1979, he was the proud owner of the world’s largest independently owned bulk-shipping fleet.
He understood the market’s pulse and decided to branch out the business in a way that explored real estate. This led to establishing Wheelock & Co. After Pao’s demise in 1991, his businesses were inherited by his four daughters.
In 1986, his eldest son-in-law, Helmut Sohmen, became the chairman of BW Group. Sohmen’s son Andreas became the chairman in 2014. While another son-in-law, Peter Woo took control over Wheelock and Co. and Wharf Holdings. His son Douglas Woo is currently the chairman of Wheelock. The Sohmen and Woo families’ combined estimated wealth is about US$ 20.2 billion, according to Bloomberg.
10) The Sys
As a child, Henry Sy learned the basics of retail business in a unique way — by helping his father run the family’s convenience store in the Philippines. Sy saved some money and finally started his footwear shop in 1958. His shop went from strength to strength to become SM Investments, amassing a family wealth of US$ 19.7 billion, as per Bloomberg.
The businessman passed away in 2019 and was worth an estimated US$ 19 billion at that time. Jose T Sio succeeded him as the chairman. Sio has worked closely with the Sy family for thirty years and was Henry Sy’s most trusted aide.
(Main and Features image: Forbes India)