wealth management

Bing Lee founder dies

SmartCompany /

Chairman and co-founder of NSW electrical retailer Bing Lee Electrics, Ken Lee, died this morning at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney.

Chinese immigrants, Ken Lee and his father Bing Lee opened the first Bing Lee store in Fairfield, Sydney in 1957. They sold TVs and did installations and repairs.

He expanded through New South Wales in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, by adding new products and stores and offering finance to new migrants. He took control when his father died in 1987, and later bought out his sister and brother and started franchising in 2000.

In an interview for the BRW Rich list in 2006 he said: “I like to grow slowly through good foundation. I went through a lot in my time. I don’t want to risk it.”

The peasant boy from rural China made a fortune. In 2006 he debuted on the BRW Rich 200 list with $203 million. In 2006 his wealth was estimated at $225 million.

But Lee, whose sons Lionel and Greg work at Bing Lee Electrics, said in 2006 he was not in business just to make money; he was motivated by “just success; people respect us”.

Bing Lee is now a big electrical retailer with 35 stores located from Canberra to Port Macquarie. In 2007 the chain’s sales came close to $400 million (ex-GST).

Lee was been a long time supporter of the Victor Chang Foundation, and was elected as a life member this year.

His wife Yenda and two sons succeed Ken Lee, who was 75. His role as CEO of Bing Lee will be assumed by his eldest son, Lionel.

“Lionel has been groomed for the role over many years and it is business as usual,” a company spokesperson said. “Ken would not have wanted it any other way,” said a company spokesman.

“While Ken will be sadly missed, the company has a strong and stable management structure with positive growth forecasts for 2008 and beyond.”

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