Migrant who founded Indonesian business empire dies

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Eka Tjipta Widjaja, patriarch of one of Asia’s richest families and the founder of a sprawling Indonesian conglomerate, has died. He was 97.

Widjaja passed away on Saturday evening, according to Gandi Sulistiyanto, a managing director at the Sinarmas conglomerate.

The son of migrants from Fujian in China, Widjaja was a coconut oil trader on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in the 1930s before building businesses in palm oil, pulp and paper and mining.

Forbes estimated Widjaja’s fortune at $8.6 billion last year, making him Indonesia’s third-richest person and the family among the 25 richest in Asia.

He had several wives and according to some reports as many as 40 children.

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Sinarmas is known for the record $14 billion default of its Asia Pulp and Paper business in 2001. Earlier this decade it became an international pariah as Greenpeace campaigned against its destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests.

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