NagaCorp Mourns the Loss of Founder Dr. Chen Lip Keong at Age 76

Dr. Chen Lip Keong, the 76-year-old founder of NagaCorp, a Hong Kong-listed casino operator, passed away on December 8 after battling illness. The firm confirmed this news, also noting that at the time of his death, he had a net worth of $1.3 billion.

Chen’s background is an interesting one – raised as a second-generation member of a Chinese immigrant family in the tin-mining region of Kinta Valley, he initially studied medicine at the University of Malaysia but was drawn towards business. He engaged in the production of aviation parts and property development before landing in Cambodia in the 1990s on an oil exploration trip.

While in Cambodia, the government offered him a license for a casino, an opportunity he jumped at despite never having visited a casino before. With this move, he aimed to combine “steady cash flow with property development.” Thus, NagaCorp was established in 1995, with a casino operating on a chartered barge at the Bassac River near Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace. The company purchased land near the barge dock in 2000 and began construction on NagaWorld, bringing the casino to the mainland in 2003. In 2006, NagaCorp became the first casino firm to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange, and in 2017, a luxurious twin-tower extension was opened.

Dr. Chen had ambitions to expand his casino empire to Vladivostok, Russia, with the Primorsky Entertainment Resort City project. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, he decided to halt the partially constructed project indefinitely.

In a press release, NagaCorp paid tribute to its late founder, recognizing his instrumental role in the group’s success and remarkable growth under his visionary leadership.

As for succession plans, Forbes reported that Dr. Chen had been preparing for this, with a reshuffle in the C-suite in 2022. He named three of his sons as CEOs to oversee finance, operations, and hotels, and further solidified the transition by transferring a controlling stake in NagaCorp to a family trust. After his death, Yiy Fon was reappointed as CEO of NagaCorp, assuming leadership duties on December 10.

Dr. Chen’s passing marks the end of an era for NagaCorp, but the company is committed to continuing his legacy and pursuing further growth and development in his absence.