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Book reviews: Robert Kuok: A memoir, The Wealth Elite, Passing the Torch

By Nicholas Moody

Our roundup of new and noteworthy business book releases, featuring Robert Kuok: A Memoir by Andrew Tanzer; The Wealth Elite: A Groundbreaking Study of the Psychology of the Super Rich by Rainer Zitelmann, and Passing the Torch: Preserving Family Wealth Beyond the Third Generation by Ilze Alberts.

Robert Kuok: A Memoir

Author: Andrew Tanzer

Rated: 5/5

Published by: Landmark Books

Pages: 376

This remarkably frank reflection on Robert Kuok’s life is a fascinating read. It is dedicated to his mother, Tang Kak Ji, whom he calls the true founder of the Kuok Group of Companies, and his younger brother, William, who joined the Malayan Communist Party and was killed aged 30 in the Malayan jungle by British forces. It tells how Kuok, the son of a small trader in Malaysia, grew to become the billionaire owner of a sector-spanning empire including Shangri-La Hotels. Written over more than 15 years, it is revealing that Kuok had his mother’s Confucianism and the memory of his Communist brother as two of the guiding principles of his business empires. Alongside the fascinating personal history, it charts the Kuok Brothers rise from humble overseas Chinese sugar traders to key brokers with an emergent China in the 1990s, all built via key personal connections. A rare and deeply personal account from one of Asia’s family business icons.

The Wealth Elite: A Groundbreaking Study of the Psychology of the Super Rich

Author: Rainer Zitelmann

Rated: 4/5

Published by: LID Publishing

Pages: 421 

Are there a common set of attributes that set the wealthy elite apart from the general public? And how much does luck play a part in it? This book, by former journalist and now investor Rainer Zitelmann, sets out to answer these questions in a much more academic framework than many other books in the ‘wealth creation’ genre. The book, which grew out of a doctoral dissertation, is based on 45 interviews with a range of German ultra-high net worth individuals. The bulk are self-made entrepreneurs, with 20% being either family entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who inherited a small business and grew it substantially. A preference for competitive sport, an early entrepreneurial streak, and a skill for selling are some of the key traits for this ‘elite’. However, rather than the conclusions, the transcripts are the most interesting part for those with family wealth. Almost 240 pages are devoted to publishing the inner thoughts of these interviewees, many of which may resonate with readers.

Passing the Torch: Preserving Family Wealth Beyond the Third Generation

Rated: 4/5

Published: Wiley

Pages: 165 

What does it take to successfully hand over a family business to the next generation? It is a question that every first-generation wealth creator has or will have to answer and Ilze Alberts, a wealth psychologist, family expert and international speaker, claims to have the answer. Building on her theory that “the biggest investment you can make is the human capital of your family”, Alberts offers practical advice to first generation wealth creators on how to create a culture that fosters strong family dynamics and helps give the next generation the necessary tools and mind-set to prosper. She teaches the family business leader how to view generational wealth from a behavioural lens and provides practical step-by-step advice from ‘how to create a wealth plan’ to ‘how to organise family retreats’. This guide book is packed with invaluable advice on how to set up the next generations for continued family wealth and wellbeing.

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