76-year-old tycoon Dr. Chen Lip Keong, the founder of NagaCorp, a Hong Kong-listed casino operator, passed away on December 8 after battling with illness. At the time of his death, he had a net worth of $1.3 billion, the firm confirmed in a statement.
Dr. Chen, raised as a second-generation member of a Chinese immigrant family in the tin-mining region of Kinta Valley, initially studied medicine at the University of Malaysia before transitioning to business. He was involved in the production of aviation parts and property development before embarking on a trip to Cambodia in the 1990s in search of oil. It was during this trip that the government offered a casino license, and Dr. Chen seized the opportunity to merge “steady cash flow with property development.”
In 1995, he established NagaCorp, operating a casino on a chartered barge along the Bassac River near Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace. The company purchased land nearby and began constructing NagaWorld, eventually moving the casino to the mainland in 2003. In 2006, NagaCorp became the first casino firm to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange. In 2017, Dr. Chen opened a luxury twin-tower extension.
He also had plans to extend his casino empire to the Primorsky Entertainment Resort City project in Vladivostok, Russia. However, he halted the partially constructed project indefinitely in 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a press release, NagaCorp paid tribute to Dr. Chen, crediting his vision and leadership for the group’s growth and development. In preparation for succession, Dr. Chen appointed three of his sons as CEOs for finance, operations, and hotels and handed over a controlling stake in NagaCorp to a family trust.
After his passing, Yiy Fon was reappointed as CEO of NagaCorp, with the firm stating, “Yiy Fon, 41, who has headed operations since April 2022, will assume the leadership duties and responsibilities previously held by Chen.” Dr. Chen’s passing marks the end of a remarkable era in the casino industry.