Millionaire investor uses wealth to help poor

In 2009, Koon Yew Yin offered to donate RM30 million to Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) to help build hostels at its Kampar campus in Perak. The offer was swiftly rejected by the university management, as he recalls it.

He was already 76 years old then, had made his money, and decided that he would use a large chunk of his fortune to help the poor.

When his offer was rejected, Koon invested the RM30 million in the stock market.

Six years later, he returned with an even bigger offer – RM50 million to fund the building of hostels at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) campus in Penang.

The massive donation had raised eyebrows, but that was the point 82-year-old Koon wanted to make.

He is the founder of construction giants Mudajaya Sdn Bhd (now IJM Corporation) and Gamuda Sdn Bhd.

Now living in Ipoh, he teaches others how to make money so that they, too, like him, can help the poor with the fortunes earned.

In an email interview with The Malaysian Insider, the octogenarian said that he was driven to practise philantrophy due to his own tough upbringing.

"As I had 11 siblings, I always needed some things since I was a boy. That is why I want to help poor people. Besides my RM50 million donation to Penang government to build student hostels, I have already given about 300 scholarships to help poor students complete their tertiary education."

Wealth is for helping others

His father owned a coffin shop in Kuala Lumpur, and Koon graduated with a diploma in civil engineering from the Technical College (now Universiti Teknologi Malaysia) in 1957 under a Public Works Department scholarship.

He then qualified as a chartered civil engineer through self-study in 1962, before embarking on a corporate career that saw him help start two of most influential construction giants in Malaysia to date – IJM and Gamuda.

He founded both companies with two partners in 1967, before Mudajaya merged with IGB and Jurutama to form IJM Corporation in 1980.

In 1975, he sold his controlling stake in Gamuda.

But it was on the stock market, 32 years ago, that Koon began accumulating even more assets and wealth.

"In 1983 I had a serious heart angina. Before my heart surgery in London, I gave all my assets to my wife and children. After my heart operation I started to learn how to make money from the stock market."

Up until then, he was an executive director in Mudajaya/IJM but gave up his position and invested his time and money in shares.

He started with only RM200,000 to dabble around with and has made money to the tune of millions ever since.

Koon said his trick to mastering the market is to be a "contrarian investor" – one who buys when everyone is selling and who sells when everyone is buying.

And it is a lesson he wants to pass on to others, as he regularly blogs about his investment tips.

"After having read several investment books by famous gurus like Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, etc and my 32 years of practical experience, I wish to share my knowledge with people who are interested.

"I believe teaching people to make money is like teaching people how to fish instead of giving them some fish."

His wish is the same no matter who he helps, whether by giving investment tips or monetarily, that they too will help the poor when they have made their money.

This applies to those who have benefitted from his investment tips, the 300-odd students who have received scholarships, and also the Penang state government, which received his RM50 million donation for the USM hostels.

Wanting a better country

Koon is active not only in making money and giving out donations, he also writes regularly about national issues.

"In 1970, when the New Economic Policy was introduced, the GDP per capita of Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea were the same as ours. They became developed nations in spite of the fact that they do not have natural resources like what we have," said the regular contributor of opinion pieces to The Malaysian Insider.

"We are still not a developed nation because of bad management and corruption of the BN (Barisan Nasional) government. I will continue to write to point out all the bad things of the government until voters can vote the BN government out of Putrajaya."

Some of this unhappiness with the ruling party was also reflected in his response to the rejection of his RM30 million donation to Utar in 2009.

"The MCA leaders who controlled Utar owned all the land out side the university campus, rejected my offer because they did not want me to spoil their lucrative property development business."

Koon believes that DAP is managing Penang "very well" and was a reason he donated the RM50 million to the state.

His latest donation to build hostels can accommodate up to 2,200 students. Currently, USM is only able to provide hostel accommodation to its first-year students.

'My children don't need my money'

Koon said he does not intend to hold back on his personal fortune either.

"I have written in my will that after I die, all my remaining assets will be donated to the poor to make them happy."

Koon believes he had done his best for his children and they would not be needing his money.

"I have given my children the best education money can buy and they can find a good living without my money.

"I want to help poor students to complete their tertiary education because I believe with good education they can earn enough to help their own families and other poor people."

And he also stressed that those who received scholarships from him need not pay him back, but must commit themselves to helping the poor when they have the money.

"I believe some of them will continue to do charity after I die and if they practise the same system or philosophy, there will be more and more charity workers."

There is great joy in giving, added the millionaire, because its "creates" happiness.

"People must realise that our ultimate aim in life is happiness. They will find great happiness if they can create happiness. If they give away some of their money to help poor people who will be happy and they will also be happy." – October 3, 2015.