Feud erupts over inheritance of RM195b Indonesia empire

JAKARTA • A feud has erupted over the inheritance of billions of dollars of businesses controlled by Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, with one of the children of the group’s late founder seeking a share of the empire spanning palm oil to banking and property.

Freddy Widjaja, a son of the late tycoon Eka Tjipta Widjaja, asked the Central Jakarta district court to recognise him and five of his siblings as legal heirs to Eka and designate a dozen companies and their assets as their inheritance, the court said on its website. The claim was filed on June 16 and listed Indra Widjaja, Teguh Ganda Widjaja, Muktar Widjaja, Djafar Widjaja and Franky Oesman Widjaja as defendants.

Sinar Mas dismissed Freddy’s claims as “baseless” and said as a child born “out of wedlock”, he held no stake in any of the group’s companies. Gandi Sulistiyanto, a MD at Sinar Mas, said in a statement that Freddy had already obtained his share of wealth in accordance with the will of the patriarch who died in January 2019. The conglomerate has nothing to do with the family squabble, he added.

Freddy is seeking a share of the assets of the companies, valued in the lawsuit at about 659 trillion rupiah (RM194.5 billion). The firms include PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology Tbk, PT Sinar Mas Multiartha Tbk, PT Sinar Mas Land Tbk, PT Bank Sinarmas Tbk, PT Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper Tbk, PT Pabrik Kertas Tjiwi Kimia Tbk, PT Lontar Papyrus Pulp & Paper Industry Tbk and PT Bank China Construction Bank Indonesia Tbk, according to the court filing.

Eka’s fortune was estimated at US$9.3 billion (RM39.99 billion) when he died at the age of 98. He built a multibillion-dollar empire with businesses ranging from paper and pulp to financial services after becoming a coconut and palm-oil trader at the age of 15.

The Indonesian tycoon of Chinese origin overcame a major set- back with the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which led to a US$14 billion default by his flagship Asia Pulp & Paper Co. The late Eka managed to restructure the debt and rebuild his empire, which employs around 380,000 people in Indonesia, even though several of Sinar Mas’ businesses were taken over by the government after the fall of the dictatorship of General Suharto.

Shares of some of the Sinar Mas Group companies fell in Jakarta yesterday. Sinar Mas Multiartha, the holding firm for financial services businesses, fell as much as 7% before closing 0.9% lower at 17,350 rupiah, Indah Kiat Pulp & Paper tumbled 5.5% to 7,300 rupiah at close, while Sinar Mas Agro closed 0.3% lower at 3,300 rupiah, rebounding from losses of as much as 7% in intraday trading. — Bloomberg