God-fearing man with an eye for good property deals (and donates to SBA)
The Straits Times
Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012
SINGAPORE – Those who have met the 51-year-old executive chairman of Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) describe him as a devout and soft-spoken man.
Mr Stephen Riady is certainly open about his Christian faith.
He converted in 1992, at the age of 31, after his parents and siblings had done so.
One memorable demonstration was the huge signboard outside the Newton One condominium a few years ago. It read: “Fully Sold, Thanks be to God.”
The condo was developed by the Lippo Group, of which Mr Riady is the president.
He became executive chairman of OUE in 2010, after buying out Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan’s stake in the company.
But soft-spoken as he is, the property deals Mr Riady has completed suggest a “sharp eye” for the market, said DMG analyst Goh Han Peng.
He added: “He’s able to catch the property up-cycle in Singapore.”
Mr Riady, a father of three who came to Singapore from Indonesia when he was 10, now lives in Sentosa Cove.
His house, by far the largest in the waterfront residential enclave on the eastern end of Sentosa Island, could be worth at least $95 million.
It sits on a premium plot of more than 28,000 sq ft and commands one of the best seafront views, according to The Edge magazine a couple of years ago.
Mr Riady has emphasised that Singapore is his home, and he is active in the philanthropy scene.
At a recent fund-raising dinner for the YMCA’s 110th anniversary, Mr Riady put in a winning bid of $50,000 for the naming rights to a new orchid hybrid.
It was subsequently named Dendrobium YMCA. The avid badminton player also gave $1 million to the Singapore Badminton Association in December 2010.
An endowed professorship is also named after him: the Stephen Riady Distinguished Professor of Finance, at the National University of Singapore Business School.
His knack for business was clear at a tender age – he made his first million at 22 by investing in the stock market, while still studying for a finance degree at the University of Southern California.
He was already part of the family business set up by his father, Mr Mochtar Riady, two years before his graduation and would return to it during school holidays to learn the ropes.
“Actually, if I had a choice, I would have done something else, be a doctor or engineer,” Mr Riady told the Business Times in a 2007 interview.
“My dad didn’t say that I had to join the business, but in the early days, you already have the business. So somehow in university, you just naturally major in business. You don’t think about it.”
He went on to get an MBA from Golden Gate University in the United States and was also awarded an honorary PhD in business administration from Na-pier University in Edinburgh.
He was named Strategic Investment Entrepreneur of the Year in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for Singapore in 2007.
Mr Riady is also executive director of Auric Pacific, which has brands such as Sunshine Bread and recently hired former SMRT chief executive Saw Phaik Hwa.
Ms Saw said Mr Riady was a very entrepreneurial businessman with a good sense of timing. “I see him as very much a Singaporean,” she added.