A Practical Dreamer
Tatler Malaysia|February 2021
For years, Alex Jiaravanont fuelled his creative passions working as an architect and artist, but when he finally joined the family business— Thailand’s enormous CP Group—he found that corporate could also be cool
Eric Wilson

On the 64th floor of Two IFC tower in Central, with its sweeping views of Victoria Harbour, Alex Jiaravanont sits in an office that is spare but enormous, wearing a tightly tailored suit over a loosely buttoned shirt. The 46-year-old executive and former architect is a third-generation member of the Bangkok-based dynasty behind one of Asia’s largest conglomerates, CP Group, and has played an important role at the company as an advisor to several investment funds from its Hong Kong offices since 2015. But he keeps a lower profile than might be expected for someone whose family has topped lists of Thailand’s richest for decades.

“I’m actually a very private person and so getting written up was not, I mean ... I don’t do it very often,” Jiaravanont says. “But a lot of people didn’t realise CP has a division in Hong Kong, so we see this as an opportunity.”

Jiaravanont might be a little shy, but he does not exactly go unnoticed. As tall and angular as a fashion model, with his head shaven clean to the scalp, he wears a heavy ring in the shape of a tiger, and when he leans forward, a considerable tattoo of an intricately coiled snake peers out from his chest. “On my side of the family, everybody thinks I’m the creative one,” he says.

“He has a lot of tattoos,” says Amy Ho, a lawyer and a business partner of Jiaravanont in, of all things, a collection of handbags called Esemblé that he designs in his spare time.

“No, not a lot,” he says. “A couple.”

The fact that Jiaravanont’s passions include business and design brings an intriguingly modern perspective to a company that has transformed dynamically over the last century from its agricultural roots into a global powerhouse. CP Group was started as a small seed shop in 1921 by Chia Ek Chor, a farmer who emigrated from China’s Guangdong province with his younger brother, Chia Siew Whooy—Jiaravanont’s grandfather—after a typhoon destroyed their village. Over several decades, the brothers created an enormous industrial feed business that eventually began trading poultry and swine, as well as operating marketing and retail channels across Asia.

Chia Ek Chor’s youngest son, Dhanin Chearavanont, who took over as CEO in 1969, led its international expansion into China when Deng Xiaoping sought to reform the country’s agricultural sector. After China opened to foreign investment in 1978, Chearavanont, who believed “a rich country cannot have poor farmers”, secured the first license, giving CP Group the distinction of being registered in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone as “No. 0001”. Today, CP’s vast array of holdings includes feed suppliers, supermarkets, a shopping mall, telecommunications firms and some 12,000 7-Eleven stores across Thailand—even the Meiji brand of milk products that are sold across Hong Kong is a joint venture between the Meiji Company of Japan and CP, produced from cows raised on CP’s farms in Thailand. The Chearavanont family is estimated to be worth US$30.7 billion, according to Bloomberg, which ranked them the 21st richest in the world last year.

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