Franky Oesman Widjaja
Chairman, Golden Agri-Resources
Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the world’s largest palm oil company by land under cultivation, will increase its size by almost 50% with a 220,000 hectare plantation in Liberia. The company signed a US$1.6 billion deal via its Golden Veroleum subsidiary in late 2009 (AAC Vol 3 No 2) and palm planting begins in 2012. GAR is scouting more plantations as rivals Olam and Sime Darby snap up new projects.
Franky Widjaja is a scion of one of Indonesia’s wealthiest families. He was born in 1958 in Makassar to Eka Tjipta Widjaja and the first of his several wives. Widjaja the elder immigrated to Indonesia from Fujian, China, before World War II, making his fortune in forestry and building up the Sinar Mas empire. But wobbles followed. In 1989, Sinar Mas took control of Bank Internasional Indonesia, which then lent unsustainably to the group’s businesses. The government seized the bank after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
Sinar Mas retains holdings in property, telecoms and agriculture. The elder Widjaja has since handed over control of much of the empire to his sons. The conglomerate’s various enterprises often raise the ire of environmental non-governmental organisations, which remain sceptical of the group’s public relations campaigns.
Franky Widjaja earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan, in 1979. He now controls several Sinar Mas companies: Jakarta-listed Asia Food and Properties, PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology, and Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources. AFP has attracted criticism for its logging at home, in China and Cambodia.