MILLIONAIRE banker Mr. Yeap Chor Ee, "grand old man" of local commerce, died today in his palatial home in Northam Road, Penang. He was 85.
Mr. Yeap had been in failing health, but went to his bank, the Ban Hin Lee Bank, as usual last Friday.
He died in the presence of his family.
Born in Nam Aun, Fukien Province, Mr. Yeap was orphaned when three months old and was brought up by his grandmother, who died when he was seven.
At 17 he came to Penang. By hard work and astute foresight, he worked his way up, until within six years he was able to open his own firm of Ban Hin Lee in Prangin Road, near the market in 1890.
Mr Yeap at first confined his activities to the sugar trade. When rubber engaged the attention of business interests at the beginning of the century, Mr Yeap, with characteristic enterprise, staked on it and was fully rewarded.
He next turned his attention to the rice industry and again he was successful. It was the same with tapioca and other Malayan produce.
He invested in them with courage and foresight with the result that he reaped substantial profits.
Typical of his courage and judgment in business was his investment in tin ingots during the slump in the early thirties.
He continued to buy on a falling market, confident that the demand would reassert itself. At one time he held stocks of several thousand tons.
When recovery came, he was in a position to control the world market, and London and New York had to take notice of this unpretentious business man in Penang.
When he found his business enlarging, Mr. Yeap established his own bank, the Ban Hin Lee Bank, in 1918. The bank was made a limited company in 1935, with Mr. Yeap as chairman of directors.
A philanthropist, Mr. Yeap last year gave $250,000 to the University of Malaya Endowment Fund for the establishment of a Chinese library.
He also gave land for a new building for the Chung Shan Chinese School in Bayan Lepas.
Mr. Yeap leaves a widow, Madam Lee Cheng Kin, four sons, Lean Seng, Kim Hoe, Hock Hoe and Hock Hin, two daughters and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Arrangements for his funeral are still being made but it is understood that it will not be this week.
Other Ban Hin Lee Bank stories here.