Businessman and community leader Ameerali Jumabhoy dies at 94

Mr Ameerali R. Jumabhoy was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award last year by SICCI. PHOTO: SINGAPORE INDIANS HALL OF FAME
Mr Ameerali R. Jumabhoy was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award last year by SICCI.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INDIANS HALL OF FAME
Mr Ameerali R. Jumabhoy founded Scotts Holdings Limited in 1982, the company behind Scotts Shopping Centre (above) and the Ascott serviced residences. At its peak, Scotts had assets valued at over $600 million. In 1996, amid a family feud, Scotts Hol
Mr Ameerali R. Jumabhoy founded Scotts Holdings Limited in 1982, the company behind Scotts Shopping Centre (above) and the Ascott serviced residences. At its peak, Scotts had assets valued at over $600 million. In 1996, amid a family feud, Scotts Holdings was sold to CapitaLand.ST FILE PHOTO
Mr Ameerali R. Jumabhoy (centre) receiving the SICCI Lifetime Achievement Award from Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in the presence of SICCI chairman T. Chandroo last year.
Mr Ameerali R. Jumabhoy (centre) receiving the SICCI Lifetime Achievement Award from Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in the presence of SICCI chairman T. Chandroo last year.PHOTO: ST FILE

Prominent businessman and community leader Ameerali R. Jumabhoy died yesterday at the age of 94.

Mr Jumabhoy founded Scotts Holdings Limited in 1982, the company 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 yesterday.

Mr Jumabhoy was born on Dec 28, 1925, the eldest of four surviving children.

His father, Mr Rajabali Jumabhoy, whose nickname was "the Grand Old Man of Scotts", was a prominent businessman and key figure in Singapore's Indian community who ran in the 1955 General Election as an independent.

The younger Jumabhoy, known to friends and family as Ameer, built Scotts Shopping Centre, whose Picnic foodcourt a generation of Singaporeans would remember fondly as one of the first, if not the first, air-conditioned foodcourts in the country.

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, amid a family feud, Scotts Holdings was sold to CapitaLand.

The family also bought and conceptualised the redevelopment of Lau Pa Sat.

Last year, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI).

"He was such a wonderful man - cheerful and friendly and he did not put on any airs," the SICCI chairman, Dr T. Chandroo, told The Straits Times yesterday.

Dr Chandroo said Mr Jumabhoy was a good friend and mentor to himself and the SICCI.

"He always showed up (for events) despite his age, and loved to motivate the young and encourage them to take up challenges," he said.

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

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

One of his sons, Asad, went on to win a silver medal in polo for Singapore in the 2007 SEA Games.

Mr Jumabhoy was not only a titan of industry, but also a committed public servant, 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 on the founding board of Singapore Polytechnic and the National Heritage Board, and led the rebuilding of Masjid Kassim in Changi Road.

In recent years, he served on the Singapore China Friendship Association, the Global Organisation of People 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," he told The Straits Times.

"I learnt a lot from him about Indian history and politics, and treated him like an uncle."

Mr Jumabhoy's dedication to active citizenry was established in his time in India during World War II, where he had fled with his mother and siblings on a ship his father had persuaded Mahatma Gandhi to send for the Indian community in Singapore, according to the family statement.

The experience was formative, Mr Jumabhoy was to say later, giving him a taste of what it meant to be a British "subject" though he lived a life of privilege in Singapore.

The Anglo-Chinese School student finished his education in Bombay (now Mumbai) and 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 yesterday's statement.

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

Mr Jumabhoy leaves his four children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife, Amina, died of a heart attack in 1992 at the age of 68.

He was buried at Choa Chu Kang Muslim cemetery yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2020, with the headline 'Businessman and community leader Ameerali Jumabhoy dies at 94'. Print Edition | Subscribe