He was born in a traditional Chinese family whom belongs to Han Chinese ethnic. Lee grew up in the northeast region of Kuala Lumpur where a rubber plantation located. His father ran a small Chinese food shop in that area to support his family. His family was consisting of 5, including his both parents, he had a younger brother and a younger sister which makes him the eldest child in the family. Hence, automatically all the responsibilities falls on him.
He was a school drop out. He left school at the age of 11 to help support his poor family. He helped his parents to sell ice cream on a bicycle to each of the housing areas and schools nearby his residence. Four years later, he continued his studies to high school. He was studying while helping his parents with their food shop in the night. His parents paid him whenever he helps them with their shop. Lee used that money as his pocket money and spends accordingly as he does not wants to burden his parents by demanding more for his financial expenses. At the age of 22 he finished his higher studies and sought out to work.
Unfortunately, his first application for work to an oil palm plantation company for a supervisory Job was turned down. The reason that was given to him was that he did not speak good and fluent English. At that era, English was an important language because Europeans still own most of the plantations and English was the primary language was used to communicate with them. Lee was upset but he did not give up. He applied to few other companies and he was hired as a field supervisor Job with one of the palm oil company he applied to. He slowly learned the Job scope and the boost up his skills while working in this company.
He learned a lot from his superintendents and top employers about palm oil companies. He was promoted fast as his work was excellent. He worked under that palm oil company until he was 43years old. Later on, he quit the Job and using his saving for the past 21 years of his working life, Lee Shin Cheng owned was in control of a small company related to property development and used it to buy a listed gas outfit, upgrading his business line. He then owned oil palm plantations by the 1985 and later associated the real estate when it forayed into property development with the Oil Palm plantations in the same year.
Lee Shin Cheng was first appointed to the Board on 21 July 1981. As Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, he actively oversees the operations of the company as he is an entrepreneur with considerable igh experience in the plantation and property development industries. When asked, Lee said that his key factor of his success all this years was his poor family background, where he struggled a lot during his young age and the rejection of his first Job application to Dunlop Estate’s for supervisory Job.
In fact, the rejection was the main key factor that boosts up his determination of being a successful entrepreneur. About 21 years later after the rejection, Lee got his ‘revenge’ when he gathered enough financial might to buy up Dunlop Estate. In 2008, he recalled his happiest day of his life in an interview with the New Straits Times. He mentioned that “My happiest day was in 1990 when I bought over Dunlop Estate from Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd. This was because during the early 1960s, I had applied for a Job at Dunlop Estate but they did not employ me because I was not adequately qualified.
If they had employed me, I would probably not have owned the entire asset of Dunlop Estate today. This purchase marked a significant milestone in my life,”. Lee then developed his company and improved his production. He was creative and innovative that he came up with new products from time to time which significantly increased his profit level. Eventhough he has thousands of workers under him to monitor the palm oil trees, he gets hands-on and walks through the fields to personally ensure that each tree is producing the way it should.
Lee’s personal determination and motivation had brought him up to where is he now, a famous Malaysian Chinese business magnate who is heavily involved in the plantation industry and real estate business. Lee’s childhood made him to have a big time ambition which is to help the poors and give proper education to the poors. Therefore, he founded a charitable foundation called Yayasan Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng (Yayasan TSLSC ) which s a non-profitable foundation in the year 1998. This Yayasan foundation has touched and impacted countless lives with its passion to extend a hand to those in need of care, concern and compassion.
Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng personally will attend the award giving ceremony to the students and the family in need. He mentioned that by doing this, he feels a great pleasure. He is glad that he could atleast help a number of needed ones through this foundation. He launched many beneficial programmes under this foundation that would be a help to his workers and students and not forgetting some schools itself.