Businessman and community leader Ameerali R. Jumabhoy dies at age 94

Mr Ameerali Jumabhoy founded Scotts Holdings Limited in 1982.
Mr Ameerali Jumabhoy founded Scotts Holdings Limited in 1982.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Prominent businessman and community leader Ameerali R. Jumabhoy died on Tuesday morning (Nov 24) at the age of 94.

Mr Ameerali founded Scotts Holdings Limited in 1982, the company that was previously behind Scotts Shopping Centre and the Ascott serviced residences.

"He was a visionary and a pioneer, always willing to challenge the status quo, and a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather," said his family in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Ameerali was born on Dec 28, 1925.

His father, Mr Rajabali Jumabhoy, nicknamed "the Grand Old Man of Scott's", was a prominent businessman and key figure in Singapore's Indian community.

The younger Jumabhoy, known affectionately as Ameer, built Scotts Shopping Centre, one of the first shopping centres in Singapore to feature an indoor food centre - Picnic.

Under his leadership, the Jumabhoy family moved into other business ventures, including the A&W fast-food chain and duty-free operations at Changi airport.

At its peak, Scotts had assets valued at over $600 million. In 1996, Scotts Holdings Limited was sold to CapitaLand.

The family also bought and conceptualised the redevelopment of Lau Pa Sat. According to his family, Mr Ameerali Jumabhoy had also imported the chiming clock installed in the market from Switzerland. 

It is still in use today. 

In 2019, Mr Ameerali was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The SICCIS’ chairman Dr T. Chandroo personally went to Mr Ameeralis home to tell him that he had received the award. 

“He was such a wonderful man – cheerful and friendly and he did not put on any airs,” Dr Chandroo told The Straits Times. 

Dr Chandroo, who knew Mr  Ameerali for over 10 years, added that he was always a good friend and mentor for himself and the SICCI. 

“He always showed up (for events) despite his age, and loved to motivate the young and encouraged them to take up challenges,” he added. 

Mr Ameerali was a keen sportsman and instrumental in securing the land where the current Singapore Polo Club is located, said his family. 

Following his death, the Polo Club posted their condolences to his family and friends on Facebook. It said: “His dedication, passion and contribution to polo and the Club will always be remembered.”

He was the first Singaporean president of the Singapore Polo Club and served for 12 years, and remained a patron until his death.

Mr Ameerali was not only a titan of industry but also had a lifelong commitment to public service.

He was actively involved in public organisations including Mendaki (where he was chairman of Mendaki Holdings), the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), National Crime Prevention Council and the National Youth Achievement Award Council.

He was also on the founding board of Singapore Polytechnic and the National Heritage Board, and also lead the re-building of Masjid Kassim in Changi Road.

In his most recent years, he served on the Sino-Singapore Friendship Association, the Global Organisation of Persons of Indian Origin and the Gandhi Memorial Foundation.

Former foreign minister George Yeo described him as a guiding figure: “I first got to know Ameer when he was part of our business delegation to India in early 1993.”

“I learned a lot from him about Indian history and politics, and treated him like an uncle,” he added.

His dedication to active citizenry was established in his time in India during World War II.

Evacuated with his mother and younger brothers to India during the war, Mr Ameerali became deeply involved in India's struggle for independence from the British Empire.

"While in India, he participated in the 'Quit India' movement, and is considered a 'freedom fighter'. He developed a deep and lifelong devotion to Mahatma Gandhi, and was arrested several times by the colonial authorities in the freedom struggle," said his family in the statement.

"He was the epitome of the beloved rebel, always challenging norms and never resting on his laurels. He will be greatly missed."

Mr Ameerali is survived by his four children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife, Mrs Amina Jumabhoy, died of a heart attack at 68 in 1992.

He is scheduled to be buried at Choa Chu Kang Muslim cemetery on Tuesday.