By John Isaac
BERJAYA Corporation Bhd founder and executive chairman Vincent Tan says he will give half of his wealth to charity when he is no longer around, while appealing to more wealthy Malaysians who have passed the age of 70 to do the same.
The billionaire said doing so would help the underprivileged own affordable homes as housing is a basic need of human beings and essential for a person’s sense of dignity, safety and inclusion.
“I think it is not wise to leave all your wealth to your family only when after all, our accumulated material wealth is made possible with the support from Malaysians and the government’s concessions and licences and other help by many people we encountered in our lifetime of wealth accumulation,” he told The Star in an interview published today.
“I am also passionate about building affordable homes for Malaysians. Berjaya has successfully designed and built a five-bedroom four-bathroom/toilet unit of 900 sq ft and a four-bedroom three-bathroom/toilet unit of 750 sq ft.
“The private sector should be prepared to sell affordable houses at a price range of RM250,000 and RM300,000 for a 900 sq ft apartment in different cities and towns in Malaysia,” he said.
Tan said he did not become rich because of something he invented but was lucky to receive many opportunities such as getting the franchise for McDonald’s and Starbucks, as well as being able to buy 7-Eleven for a good price from a Malaysian group.
“It is only right that I give half of my wealth back to the people and country. It is the right thing to do,” he said.
In doing so, he said, he is a signatory of the Giving Pledge started by American billionaires Bill Gates and his wife Melinda and Warren Buffet.
The tycoon surprised corporate Malaysia with the recent appointment of Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed as the new chief executive officer (CEO) of Berjaya Corp, saying this is his first step to taking a backseat.
Jalil, 38, a former CEO of Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), is the first non-family member CEO of the group.
“I am 69 years old now and by next year, I will be 70. I think that’s enough. I have been working since I was 17 years old when I first joined a bank as a clerk and I have been working non-stop for 52 years now.”
He also said it was his wish that none of his children would be involved in the group’s listed companies, preferring to let professional managers run them instead.
“My children can start their own business as they already have. We need to have a clear demarcation of listed and private entities.”
On his charity work, Tan said he had been a big supporter of Tzu Chi Foundation, an international humanitarian organisation, and would devote more time to its cause.
“The best decision I have made in life is becoming a vegetarian after meeting (Tzu Chi) Master Cheng Yen. I feel physically healthier, mentally more alert and spiritually richer,” he said. – FMT