Crazy rich Singaporean: Sea CEO Forrest Li is richest man in town with $27b fortune

PHOTO: Screengrab/Youtube/Lion City Sailors

Forrest Li is Singapore's richest man and it's a name many are getting familiar with. 

Bloomberg Billionaires Index confirmed the CEO and co-founder of tech giant Sea has a net worth of US$20.3 billion (S$27.3 billion) in a report on Tuesday (Aug 31) – which puts him in 96th place on the world's richest individuals list.

Media reports indicate that American depositary receipts from Sea – the company that owns e-commerce platform Shopee – grew 67 per cent this year, increasing Li's net worth.

His company Sea Ltd, is worth US$120 billion, and is Southeast Asia's largest public company, according to Nikkei Asia.

However, his path to financial success was far from conventional. 

Rags-to-riches

Born in China, the naturalised Singaporean only arrived here 15 years ago. 

According to CNA, Li was a student struggling with loans of $100,000 and earned just enough to cover his rent – a room in Braddell. 

His rise to the top is all the more remarkable given that in 2006, the year he arrived in Singapore, wasn't that long ago. 

In 2009, Li dipped his feet into the world of entrepreneurship by starting Sea as Garena, an online games developer and publisher. Garena proved to be a success and Li then expanded into other businesses. Sea now owns other well-known companies such as Shopee and Lion City Football Club. 

Despite how commonly recognised his brands are, little is known about the man behind them.

For one, Shopee wasn't exactly his idea.

In a video interview with The Straits Times last year, Li mentioned that his daughter played a part in seeding the idea of an e-commerce site.

During a family vacation, Li asked her what she missed most about home. Taobao, the popular Chinese online shopping platform, was her answer. 

Li joked back: "Okay then, Daddy will build one for you." Apparently, the billionaire wasn't joking when he founded Shopee in 2015.

Six years on, the e-commerce platform has come a long way. These days, it has global movie star Jackie Chan and football icon, Cristiano Ronaldo, dancing to the tune of their advertisements.

SG billionaires club

Singapore has eight representatives in the world's top 500 richest individuals list.

Notable names in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index include Shu Ping and Zhang Yong, co-founders of the wildly popular hotpot franchise, Haidilao.

Gang Ye, Sea's co-founder, is also on the list. His $14.9 billion fortune sees him take the 220th spot on the list.

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amierul@asiaone.com