Real estate tycoon and Olympian Thio Gim Hock dies aged 82

Real estate tycoon and Olympian Thio Gim Hock helmed OUE for over a decade.
Real estate tycoon and Olympian Thio Gim Hock helmed OUE for over a decade.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Real estate tycoon and Olympian Thio Gim Hock, who was formerly the chief executive of property developer OUE, died on April 3. He was 82.

He died from a blood disorder and kidney failure, according to his family.

Mr Thio helmed OUE for over a decade, only retiring from the company on Dec 31, 2019, having held the position since 2007, according to Singapore Exchange filings.

His wife, Dr Thio Su Mien, 81, a former law dean at the National University of Singapore (NUS), told The Straits Times of his work. She said: "He was involved in the transformation of old Singapore to the modern city today, first in the then Port of Singapore Authority reclamation works and later changing the waterfront where Change Alley used to stand. (He participated) in (building) the historical land sites of our nation."

The family held a private burial for Mr Thio last Friday and they intend to hold a memorial service when the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

Aside from his corporate feats, Mr Thio was a keen swimmer and water polo player, representing Singapore in water polo at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, and winning the gold medal at the South-east Asian Peninsular Games in 1967.

His son, lawyer Thio Shen Yi, said that when he was growing up, his father took more interest in his sporting achievements than his academic ones.

The 53-year-old said: "He was a sports psychologist before that became fashionable.

"But my biggest takeaways were from how he lived his life - valuing fairness, and always winning with grace and losing with honour."

His daughter, Professor Thio Li-ann, a law professor at NUS, fondly recalled the times her father took her swimming as a child.

The 52-year-old said: "He swam like a dolphin, so graceful, so powerful and strong, just cutting through the waters in the swimming pool."

She added: "I remember resting against him, my strong dad carrying me on his back as he swam, the sun bright, the water warm and welcoming; I remember feeling absolutely safe and secure, giggling.

"It's not something I feel much, in the harshness of today's world. But I remember this, and I will drink from this and draw strength from it, until we meet again, and I am free to giggle and rejoice with him once more."

Mr Thio was also a staunch Christian, travelling frequently on mission trips.

Speaking of his father's faith, the younger Mr Thio said: "He truly 'walked the talk' until his dying breath. It's a legacy I'm going to try my best to live up to."

Similarly, Prof Thio said: "He cared passionately about other people, about what happens to all of us after we shuffle off our mortal coils... He was a man of faith and integrity. That to me, is an incredible legacy to have."