Strictly Business: The Kwek Leng Beng Story


“Kwek Leng Beng’s story is worth reading. In my years interacting with him as a government minister and as a friend, I found him thoughtful, realistic, and creative. He is not given to publicity or flashy living. He is a worrier. His lifework consisted of building on what he inherited from his father and turning CDL into a remarkable international enterprise.”

– George Yeo, former Cabinet Minister of Singapore

For the first time, the legendary dealmaker opens up on his six decades of breakthroughs in sectors ranging from real estate to hospitality, from finance to manufacturing.

Just who the heck is Kwek? Kwek Leng Beng may be one of Singapore’s most successful businessmen, but he is also among the country’s most enigmatic. While his companies and brands are blue-chip counters and household names, the man has steadfastly remained reticent and at times mysterious.

Few know that he owns a global hotel empire across five continents or had the measure of Donald Trump in New York. Even in Singapore, many have only a faint inkling that he had a hand in the iconic architectures that dot the Marina Bay skyline, from The Sail to The South Beach, and also Marina Bay Sands.

In the hands of bestselling author and journalist Peh Shing Huei, the first authorised biography of Kwek offers:

  • The secrets behind the straight-talking business leader’s success over six decades of breakthroughs
  • Rare access and insights into Kwek’s idiosyncrasies and personal principles
  • A look into his tormented relationship with his father and his plans for succession

Strictly Business: The Kwek Leng Beng Story is a rare private sector addition to Singapore literature, one hitherto dominated by politics and government. Most importantly, it finally takes a stab at answering the question: “Just who the heck is Kwek?”

About the Author

Peh Shing Huei is a Singapore Literature Prize-winning author and journalist. He was The Straits Times‘ news editor and China bureau chief. He is the author of 12 books, including seven bestsellers: When the Party Ends, Neither Civil Nor Servant, Tall Order and Standing Tall: The Goh Chok Tong Years, The Last FoolsThe Price of Being Fair, and Strictly Business: The Kwek Leng Beng Story. He is a regular commentator on Singapore and China affairs. He is a graduate of the National University of Singapore and Columbia University in New York.

Product Description

ISBN: 978-981-12-8448-9 (Hardcover), 978-981-12-8451-9 (Softcover)
Page Count: 300
Year Published: 2023
Author: Peh Shing Huei
Publisher: World Scientific Publishing & The Nutgraf Books


“This book peels back the curtain on the complexities of being a retail co-op – supply chain fractures, societal expectations, and all. In doing so, it plugs a gap in the Singapore story, in the most engaging of ways.”
Piyush Gupta, Group Chief Executive Officer, DBS Bank

“The Price of Being Fair is an inspiring and riveting read of the FairPrice Group’s five decades of unwavering commitment and excellence in serving Singaporeans, growing and transforming along with the nation, and making a positive and enduring impact to the community as one of our nation’s most iconic enterprises.”
Lee Chee Koon, Group Chief Executive Officer, CapitaLand Investment Limited

“This is not a celebratory commemorative publication of 50 years of Singapore’s most successful social enterprise and retailer. It’s an authentic account of “doing good” best in the face of adversity and disruptions, told in a gripping, narrative fashion, as only the Nutgraf team can.”
Willie Cheng, Author of Doing Good Well, Doing Good Better, and Doing Good Great

Behind the Book

Telling the story of this maverick businessman was no mean feat. Kwek lived up to his reputation as a man of few words. It is why, despite hours of conversation, six interviews between Peh, our team, and Kwek in his office in Republic Plaza and the opulent presidential suits at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront and the St. Regis Singapore were hardly enough. Anything that was not strictly business was hardly worth talking about. Small talk? Get out.

To fill in the gaps, Peh spoke to nearly 30 of Kwek’s business associates, colleagues, family members, and his few friends. These were supplemented by months of research from books, newspaper articles, and company annual reports.

Just like how he had to get creative with his sources of information, he also plays with form in this authorised biography, breaking with conventional prose in certain chapters to present the narrative in interesting listicles and even song lyrics.