THE name Datuk Dr Foo Wan Kien may not ring a bell with today’s youngsters. However, for lovers of the Alfa Romeo, he was the “super” dealer who held the sports car’s franchise in Malaysia many years ago.
Others know him as the founder of the City Motors Group in which he is its current executive chairman.
Foo is also a man with a big heart when it comes to charitable work although he claims that he is no match for his eldest brother Foo Wan Thot who is “even more generous” and who is very involved in Chinese education.
The motoring man turned property developer is very low profile and rarely appears in public except perhaps during Lions Club or Foo Clan Association functions.
He is the Perak Hu Clan Association chairman.
Just like his famous philanthropist father Foo Yet Kai, his many charitable deeds went unreported until one recent evening at the wedding dinner of his daughter and youngest child Mandy Foo Yoke Man at the JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and Syuen Hotel in Ipoh that was attended by Sultan Azlan Shah, the Menteri Besar of Perak, and with many other state dignitaries.
Foo marked his daughter’s wedding by announcing a RM10mil trust fund for the future generation to help the needy. He also donated RM120,000 to various organisations. About RM40,000 went to the Lions Club Sight-First Programme and 40 other clubs for their project fund. He is the past governor for Lions District 308-B2 Malaysia from 1999 to 2000.
How does the fund work and why is he doing this?
According to Foo, the money from the fund would come from the earnings of his proposed 200-acre oil palm plantation in the country and from rentals of a proposed 50-unit apartment in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.
“The income from these sources will be used for the trust and will go towards helping the public, my relatives and children of my employees. They will receive one-third share each,” he said.
“I always believe that charity must begin at home and I must also help my large family that numbers some 100 members! Some of them may not be able to afford, say medical treatment,” said Foo who is the eighth child in a family of 19 children.
His rationale is that while it is good to do charitable work, one must also not forget to help one’s family members and relatives.
Why is he giving away so much?
“I believe there’s a saying: When a leopard dies, it leaves behind the skin, when a man dies, he leaves behind a name. So, I want my future generation to follow the family legacy like what my father has done.”
“I remember one day when I was in Singapore starting my business and did not know any contacts there. A man came into my showroom to buy a car and later offered me loan facilities with the bank he worked with. Within two weeks, the loan was approved.
“The gentleman told me that this loan was approved without any questions asked because a member of the committee knew of my father’s charitable deeds. This customer turned out to be the uncle of Mandy’s husband Terence Chia.”
“It’s natural. I’ve seen my father do so much I too want to do the same. When my children were young I used to take them to see how the under-privileged people live. It made them realise how lucky they are. I hope my future generations will continue to do charitable work,” said Foo, who has four grown-up children — two boys and two girls.
The older son Kuen Lim, 40, manages the group’s plantations while second son Hon Lim manages the property division.
“If you can make RM1mil a year what is the difference if you make another RM100,000 more? Stress is the biggest killer. I’m happy with what I am,” said a relaxed Foo at his office in Bangsar.
The small office sits on prime land where Foo originally planned to build an office tower. He may now put up a condotel instead. Another one of his motor showrooms in Jalan Bukit Bintang may also be turned into a condotel.
Perak-born Foo, 64, spends most of his time in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Hong Kong rather than at his head office in the Foo Yet Kai Building at Jalan Sultan Iskandar. Most of his plantation and aquaculture businesses are in Perak.
His other businesses include construction, property development and investment, plywood and wood products and trading.
As the chairman and CEO of the Kinta Medical Centre in Ipoh, he has visions of transforming the non-profit 105-bed hospital that his father built into a modern specialist centre.
His father donated the hospital to the St Franscican Little Sisters of the Poor in 1963 but as there were not enough nuns to run it, the hospital was returned to the Foos in 1985.
“We are now trying to introduce traditional Chinese medicine by tying up with a Chinese university. It can also be used as a training centre for acupuncture. We are also considering having a dialysis centre for the poor and looking at other healthcare services,” Foo said.
He said the hospital charges only RM35 a night and patients get five meals a day. “We’re trying to make ends meet. Its expenses are heavily subsidised by us,” he said.
Foo, who is as comfortable riding his Harrier as in an old car, does not care much about putting up appearances.
“One day I asked my friend who owns a RM1mil Mercedes what he gets out of his car? The man replied that he enjoyed it. I’d rather do a lot of charity. If I can give RM10 to a person who needs the money and his face lights up with joy, I too feel happy” he said.
Foo has a word of advice for today’s youth: “Don’t treat old people as a spent force. They should try to listen to the elders for there is much they can learn from them. You must be sincere and dedicated in your work, set your goal and make it happen!”