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Robert Kuok Hock Nien, an ethnic Chinese-Malaysian tycoon, has built a multinational business empire, including his hospitality arm, Shangri-La Hotels. (Photos from Getty Images and Reuters)
Asian Family Conglomerates

Mahathir's 94-year-old top adviser rekindles China connections

Robert Kuok, Malaysian 'sugar king,' takes on new role seen as rebooting empire

KENJI KAWASE, Nikkei Asian Review chief business news correspondent | China

HONG KONG -- The same day that 89-year-old Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing stepped down as chairman of his two flagship conglomerates, CK Hutchison Holdings and CK Asset Holdings, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad reclaimed the title of Malaysia's prime minister, following an election upset led by his coalition Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope.

A further surprise came two days later, on May 12, when Mahathir announced the appointment of Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon, Robert Kuok Hock Nien, 94, as one of his five top advisors. Well-known as the "sugar king" for his commodities trading and the founder of the Shangri-La Hotel chain, Kuok's emergence to the frontline of Malaysian politics was astonishing to many because of his age and for being low-key for years.

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