Born in the Malayan seaport of Penang, the late A.C. Toh made his career in Singapore in the 1950’s and ‘60s as a trader and entrepreneur.
A.C. attended the Chung Ling High School in Penang before his education was disrupted by the Second World War. The youngest child in a family of three, he had an elder brother who was killed in the War, and an elder sister. He worked for the Sim Lim Trading Co. in Penang, before transferring to the Singapore head office in 1952, after his marriage to Khoo Lay Kee.
By 1962, Aik Choon had become Managing Director of Sim Lim Co. Ltd, one of the first local companies to be listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. A.C. was instrumental in many of the joint venture industrial enterprises that Sim Lim commenced in that period. In particular, he was Chairman of Pan Malaysia Paint Industry Ltd (1962-65), and a founding director of Nippon Paint (S) Co. Pte Ltd (1965 -75), National Iron and Steel Mills Ltd (1964), and Malayan Iron and Steel Mills Ltd (1968).
A.C. left Sim Lim in 1969 to start his own company, A.C.T. Enterprises Pte Ltd, which became a holding company for various joint ventures he started. Capitalizing on the first wave of Japanese investment into South East Asia in the 1970s, he started numerous manufacturing and trading joint ventures during this period, including Fujitec Singapore Corporation Ltd, Hitachi (Singapore) Pte Ltd, Hitachi Consumer Products (S) Pte Ltd, Nissei Sangyo (S) Pte Ltd, Hitachi Consumer Products (Malaysia) SdnBhd, Hitachi Cable (S) Pte Ltd, and Toyo Metal Products (S) Pte Ltd.
He was also an early investor in the US real estate market, where he started developing industrial land in Dekalb County , Georgia, through the Atlanta International Industrial Park. In 1987 he started A.C.T. Investments, Inc. together with Peter E. Chang. The company’s first project was the development of the 36 storey luxury apartments, the Grandview in Buckhead, Atlanta.
In the early 80s, A.C. was energized by the potential of the China market, and worked relentlessly to bring foreign investors and consultants to the People’s Republic of China. He helped negotiate Hitachi’s first investment in China, a television factory in Fujian province. In 1984, he started theTianjin International Technology Consulting Centre (ITC) in Tianjin, in collaboration with the Science and Technology Commission. ITC became the first sino-foreign joint venture consulting company, with a no-dividend policy for 50 years.
With something less than a high school education, A.C. made the world his oyster, and was equally at home in New Delhi, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Hohot, Mongolia. Race and nationality mattered little to him; he befriended, and did business with Indians, Japanese, Americans, Chinese, Israelis, Malaysians, and even on occasion, his fellow Singaporeans. He became an honorary citizen of Atlanta and the State of Georgia, and was posthumously awarded honorary citizenship of the City of Tianjin, and the prestigious Friendship Award by the State Department of the People’s Republic of China.
A.C. Toh passed away in September 1990, age 63, survived by his wife and three children, Serene, Merlene and James.
View Wikipedia entry on Toh Aik Choon