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Asian family business tycoon dies

Liem Sioe Liong, founder of family business Salim Group, has died at the age of 95 at his home in Singapore.

Liem Sioe Liong, founder of family business Salim Group, has died at the age of 95 at his home in Singapore.

The son of a farmer, Liem, also known as Sudono Salim, was born in 1916 in Fujian, China, and followed his brother to Indonesia at the age of 20.

He made his fortune thanks to close links with the Suharto regime in Indonesia, but had to flee his adopted country in 1998 as riots erupted following the fall of his patron.

He first became friendly with Suharto, then a colonel in the army, after winning a contract to sell medical supplies to the army in Java. As Suharto rose through the ranks, so too did Liem’s fortunes grow.

He later teamed up with other ethnic Chinese businessmen, building a number of companies, including one that provided soap to the air force.

In 1957 he was able to start the Bank Central Asia with funds from the New Order government, but it was when Suharto seized control of the country in 1965 that his fortune was assured, as Indonesians seized businesses formerly owned by the Dutch.

Liem took control of the clove market and his food interests grew – by the early 1970s his Bogasari Flour Mills had a monopoly of the import, milling and sale of flour in Indonesia. He owned the world’s largest producer of instant noodles, Indofood Sukses Makmur, too.

He also moved beyond food, with interests in cement and car dealerships. His conglomerate became the Salim Group, which was taken over by his son Anthoni in 1992, and has interests as diverse as palm oil plantations, logging concessions, motorways and chemicals.

Liem, who died on 10 June, is survived by his wife Lie Las Nio, four sons and a daughter. 

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