Choo Chong Ngen

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Choo Chong Ngen
Choo Chong Ngen.jpg
BornApril 1952
OrganisationExecutive Chairman at Worldwide Hotels Group
Known forFounder of Hotel 81
Net worthS$2.95 billion (as of 2019)
ChildrenCarolyn Choo, Sean Choo, 2 other children

Choo Chong Ngen is a Singaporean billionaire who is the founder and Executive Chairman of Hotel 81, a chain of budget-friendly hotels in Singapore which had started out in Geylang’s red-light district.[1] Choo Chong Ngen has achieved success in the hotel industry locally and overseas under his group, Worldwide Hotels. In 2018, he was featured on Forbes’ 'List of Billionaires' and was ranked tenth on 'Singapore’s 50 Richest'.[2] As of 6 June 2019, his net worth is at S$2.5 billion.[3]

Background

Childhood

Choo Chong Ngen started selling textiles when he was 15 years old while working for a neighbour who paid him S$30 every month.[4] He had dropped out of school at 14 years old to work.[5] However, working for his neighbour proved unsustainable and Choo started selling his own textiles instead. At the time, he had started off his textile business with S$50 from his mother and S$6 from a friend.[6]

Early business ventures

At 21 years old, he forayed into real estate investment and was able to acquire a shophouse unit with the help of a bank loan. In the span of 9 years, he had invested in at least thirty shop units and earned a living by renting them out to tenants.[7] From shophouses, he moved on to apartments. In 1992, Choo Chong Ngen first dabbled in property development by building twenty apartment units in Geylang worth S$1.5 million.[8] Thereafter, he built about a hundred apartment units on four plots of land in Geylang.


Choo Chong Ngen experienced business setbacks during the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2008 financial crisis.[9] In 2003, the outbreak left a large impact on his business which had dropped by 80 per cent.[10] In 2008, he was unable to secure a bank loan for a site that he had bid for. As such, he had to pay for the piece of land with a combination of cash, some properties and overdraft money. Nonetheless, this investment grew to become V Hotel.[11]

Personality

In a 2018 interview with The Business Times, Choo Chong Ngen attributed his business success to his opportunistic mindset.[12] Instead of being affected by Geylang's reputation as a red-light district, he saw the low prices in the area as a business opportunity.

Career highlights

Choo Chong Ngen (right) and his daughter, Carolyn Choo (left) who is also the Managing Director of Worldwide Hotels Group. Photo from Business Times Singapore.

Worldwide Hotels Group (Oct 2018 - Present Day)

The Worldwide Hotels Group was established in 2018 as a consolidation of Choo Chong Ngen's six Singapore hotel brands and the overseas hotels owned by the company.[13] The six local hotel brands include Hotel 81, V Hotel, Value Hotel, Hotel Mi, Hotel Boss and Benue Hotel which each have different price points that target a variety of customers.[14]

The Worldwide Hotels Group owns several hotels overseas that are managed by companies such as Travelodge and Holiday Inn.[15]

The facade of Hotel 81 at Chinatown, Singapore. Photo from HOTEL 81.
The facade of V Hotel Lavender in Singapore. Photo from Booking.com.

Hotels in Singapore

Choo Chong Ngen opened the first Hotel 81 in Singapore in 1995.[16] He had been inspired by his stay at a business hotel in Japan where the small rooms had been tagged with very affordable prices. He had wanted to bring this concept over to Singapore.[17] His first hotel had been named after his house number at the time. When his hotels were first starting out, Choo Chong Ngen visited them daily to improve their efficiency and productivity.[18] In order to streamline in-house processes, he even customised the luggage and laundry trolleys. As of 2019, Hotel 81 is a chain of twenty-eight hotels island-wide.


Following the success of Hotel 81, Choo Chong Ngen went ahead to open several other hotels in Singapore with different price points to attract a varied pool of customers. Venue Hotel was established to give customers a taste of Singapore culture while Value Hotel aims to provide affordable yet comfortable rooms to travellers.[19] Hotel Boss, V Hotel and Hotel Mi target both business and leisure travellers.[20]

Overseas hotels

Choo Chong Ngen's first expansion abroad was in Thailand where he signed a managing contract with Travelodge.[21] He then moved into Malaysia, South Korea and Australia. As of 2019, Choo Chong Ngen owns seven hotels abroad.

Hotel Location Managed by
Travelodge Dongdaemun Seoul, Korea Travelodge
Swiss-Garden Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Swiss-Garden
Ibis Hotel Brisbane Brisbane, Australia Ibis Hotels
Holiday Inn Perth City Centre Perth, Australia Holiday Inn
Travelodge Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Travelodge
Travelodge Sukhumvit 11 Bangkok, Thailand Travelodge
Travelodge Pattaya Pattaya, Thailand Travelodge

Philanthropy

Choo Chong Ngen has been involved in philanthropy efforts in Singapore, particularly those related to education. In 2017, he set up the Hotel 81-Choo Chong Ngen Foundation in partnership with Credit Suisse's SymAsia Foundation. Choo Chong Ngen kick-started the foundation with a donation to five local polytechnics amounting to S$2.5 million.[22]

Year Beneficiary Amount (SGD) Description Refs.
2018 Institute of Technical Education (ITE) $2 million ITE Education Fund -
2018 Chong Pang CC Community Development and Welfare Fund $50,000 Fund benefits more than 2,000 families [23]
2017 Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic and Temasek Polytechnic $2.5 million Bursary for financially needy students [24]
2016 National University of Singapore (NUS) $2 million Bursary for financially needy undergraduates -
2015 Singapore Management University (SMU) $2 million Worldwide Hotels-Choo Chong Ngen Bursary -
2013 Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) $2 million Hotel 81-Choo Chong Ngen Bursary -
2012 National Technological University (NTU) $2 million Education Bursary [25]

References / Citations

  1. #10 Choo Chong Ngen”. Forbes. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  2. #10 Choo Chong Ngen”. Forbes. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  3. #10 Choo Chong Ngen”. Forbes. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  4. Cua, Genevieve. “When red-light means go”. The Business Times. April 3, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  5. Zafirah Salim. "How Hotel 81 Founder Became a Billionaire With Budget Hotels In Singapore's Red Light District". Vulcan Post. June 12, 2018. Accessed on 13 January 2020.
  6. Cua, Genevieve. “When red-light means go”. The Business Times. April 3, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  7. Cua, Genevieve. “When red-light means go”. The Business Times. April 3, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  8. Cua, Genevieve. “When red-light means go”. The Business Times. April 3, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  9. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  10. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  11. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  12. Cua, Genevieve. “When red-light means go”. The Business Times. April 3, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  13. Neoh, Naomi. “Worldwide Hotels takes off on global expansion”. Travel Weekly Asia. October 24, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  14. Neoh, Naomi. “Worldwide Hotels takes off on global expansion”. Travel Weekly Asia. October 24, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  15. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  16. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  17. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  18. Cua, Genevieve. “When red-light means go”. The Business Times. April 3, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  19. OWNED&MANAGED”. Worldwide Hotels. Accessed on 13 February 2019.
  20. OWNED&MANAGED”. Worldwide Hotels. Accessed on 13 February 2019.
  21. Meet The Hotel Founder Who Made His Fortune In Singapore’s Red-Light District”. Forbes. August 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  22. "New Hotel 81-Choo Chong Ngen Foundation set up, donates S$2.5 million to Singapore polytechnics". Credit Suisse Group AG. November, November 2017. Accessed on 7 June 2019.
  23. Neoh, Naomi. “Worldwide Hotels takes off on global expansion”. Travel Weekly Asia. October 24, 2018. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  24. Hotel 81-Choo Chong Ngen Foundation donates $2.5m to help needy polytechnic students”. Channel News Asia. November 10, 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.
  25. Hotel 81-Choo Chong Ngen Foundation donates $2.5m to help needy polytechnic students”. Channel News Asia. November 10, 2017. Accessed on 12 February 2019.