Mr. Sukanto Tanoto who founded and heads the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) business group in Indonesia. RGE has holdings worth more than $15 million USD and more than 50,000 employees worldwide. The group includes palm oil refineries, wood pulp and paper mills, and oil and gas facilities in countries around the world.
Mr. Tanoto was born to an immigrant Chinese family in Medan, Indonesia in 1949, the oldest of seven boys. His education was interrupted in 1966 when Indonesian President Suharto shut down Chinese schools and prevented ethnic Chinese from attending national schools.
After his father died, Tanoto took over his family’s trading business. He expanded the business to include winning contracts to build gas pipelines for multinational corporations. When the worldwide oil crisis occurred in 1972, the sharply increased prices allowed Tanoto to quickly expand operations.
In 1973, he noticed that Indonesia was exporting raw lumber to other countries in Asia. This raw wood product was being converted to plywood, whereupon Indonesia had to pay a large premium for this manufactured product. Tanoto worked to obtain a government permit to open a wood mill to manufacture plywood within Indonesia.
An Interrupted Education
Tanoto always regretted that his education had been interrupted and set about to learn all he could to support his growing business interests. His self-education began by learning English, translating Western magazines word-for-word using a Chinese-English dictionary.
In the mid-1970s, Tanoto attended a Jakarta business school. He continued his formal higher education by then attending INSEAD, a graduate business school in Fontainbleau, France.
The Vision for Royal Golden Eagle
Mr. Tanoto’s guiding vision for his Royal Golden Eagle corporations is the Triple Bottom Line, “People, Planet and Profit.” This means that RGE operations must be “good for the community, good for the country and good for the company.”
Each of the business groups within RGE operates on the principle of sustainable growth. Efficiency in production depends on high quality and energy savings, along with environmental harmony.
Today, the RGE companies are organized into four primary business groups:
Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd handles fiber, pulp and paper products.
Asian Agri is responsible for RGE’s agricultural operations.
Sateri Holdings Limited dissolves wood pulp and viscose staple fiber.
Pacific Oil & Gas is in charge of energy resource development.
A Second Life
Mr. Tanoto has passed some of the day-to-day operations of RGE to his children and has taken on primary responsibility for the Tanoto Foundation. This foundation was founded to help those in poverty receive education, job training and opportunities in business.
Working in underserved communities in Indonesia and China, the foundation has built primary and secondary schools, provided scholarships for needy students and supported many agricultural communities with microfinance and infrastructure development.
Mr. Tanoto received the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Dean’s Medal in December 2012 because of his business leadership, innovative support for Indonesia and China and his concentration on alleviation of poverty through education and empowerment of those in need.
In May 2014, Mr. Tanoto was given the Jing Hua Award by the Beijing Municipality because of his significant contributions to the city.