Man behind Singapore's 4th telco: TPG founder David Teoh a 'reclusive billionaire'

ON TELECOM TYCOON DAVID TEOH: David Teoh (above) deserves more respect than anyone in the telco sector because he built the business.- MR KEVIN RUSSELL, a former chief executive at Singtel's Australian unit Optus
ON TELECOM TYCOON DAVID TEOH: David Teoh (above) deserves more respect than anyone in the telco sector because he built the business.- MR KEVIN RUSSELL, a former chief executive at Singtel's Australian unit Optus

A reclusive billionaire. That is how most people tend to regard telecommunications tycoon David Teoh, the man behind Singapore's newly assigned fourth telco TPG Telecom.

According to Forbes, Mr Teoh, TPG chairman and chief executive, has a net worth of US$1.58 billion (S$2.27 billion).

He is ranked 854th on Forbes' 2016 billionaires list and ninth on its Australia's 50 Richest list.

Born in Malaysia, he moved to Australia in 1986, and is an Australian citizen living in Sydney.

Mr Teoh, 60, is TPG's largest shareholder, with a 34.37 per cent stake. His Taiwan-born wife Vicky Teoh, with whom he has four children, helped start the company but is no longer involved.

 
 

Little else is known about the low-profile businessman, who avoided having his photo taken by outsiders until a photographer staked out his Sydney home for three days last year, said Forbes.

But partners in the industry have praised him as a self-made and successful businessman.

Mr Kevin Russell, a former chief executive at Singtel's Australian unit Optus, told The Australian Financial Review in a report last year: "David Teoh deserves more respect than anyone in the telco sector because he built the business.

"He hasn't been appointed into a CEO role of a well-established company. He has built an organisation and created massive value for his shareholders in the process through smart business dealings."

TPG was founded in 1986 as Total Peripherals Group, a company that sold computers.

Following a reverse takeover by SP Telemedia in 2008, the combined entity was renamed TPG Telecom. The company is listed in Australia.

The firm has since embarked on a series of aggressive acquisitions, with the latest being the A$1.56 billion (S$1.66 billion) takeover of iiNet, an Australian Internet service provider.

TPG had 1.87 million broadband subscribers in Australia as at July 31 - ahead of Optus' 1.11 million broadband subscribers as at the end of September.

The firm's market capitalisation stands at A$6.02 billion, going by Bloomberg data.

Mr Russell, who resigned from his role at Optus in 2014, went on in the report to describe Mr Teoh as "very hands-on and very strategic".

"I personally don't think there's another executive in the sector who can claim to have done what he has built and delivered as (an) individual."

TPG has more than 6,000 staff across its operations globally, including Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the Philippines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'TPG founder a 'reclusive billionaire''. Print Edition | Subscribe