Malaysia’s enigmatic casino mogul leaves legacy as NagaCorp mourns his loss

Lea Hogg 4 months ago
Malaysia’s enigmatic casino mogul leaves legacy as NagaCorp mourns his loss

Malaysia’s renowned casino tycoon, Chen Lip Keong, founder of the Hong Kong-listed casino operator NagaCorp, passed away at the age of 76 earlier this month after battling an illness and health problems.

Seventh richest person in Malaysia

Many are still curious about who he really was. The unexpected departure of this enigmatic figure prompts a closer look at the life and legacy of a man who played a pivotal role in shaping the casino sector in Asia.

NagaCorp Ltd, a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with limited liability, saw its founder, Chen Lip Keong, (above in photo), ranked as the seventh richest person in Malaysia, boasting a wealth or net worth of US$2.8 billion according to the latest ranking by US business magazine Forbes as of May 2023.

From medicine to monopoly

Chen, a second-generation member of a Chinese immigrant family, initially pursued a career in medicine at the University of Malaysia. However, his path took an unexpected turn, leading him to span out into property development and aviation parts manufacturing.

The 1990s brought him to Cambodia in search of oil but fate had other plans. When presented with the opportunity to obtain a casino licence, Chen seized the moment despite his limited casino experience. He envisioned a fusion of steady cash flow and property development.

Unpredictable path of Chen Lip Keong

The ‘accidental gambling tycoon’ founded NagaCorp in 1995, initiating casino operations on a leased barge along the Bassac River near Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace in Cambodia. Over the years, he transformed NagaCorp into a powerhouse, becoming the first casino company to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2006.

Known for his bold moves, such as opening Naga 2 in 2017, an extravagant twin-tower extension, Chen left an indelible mark on the industry.

Chen Lip Keong remains an enigma

Despite facing challenges, including the abrupt halt of the Primorsky Entertainment Resort City project in Vladivostok, Russia, due to geopolitical tensions, Chen displayed resilience. In a strategic move last June, he accelerated succession plans by appointing three of his sons as CEOs in a C-suite regrouping.

As the NagaCorp family mourns Chen’s loss, the spotlight has now turned to Yiy Fon, appointed as the new CEO, leading the group into the future.

The story of Chen Lip Keong, the accidental tycoon, unfolds as industry insiders and curious onlookers seek to understand the man behind the legacy.

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