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Sampoerna's Founder Story*

The Journey Begins
The Beginnings of the Business & Family
Tremendous Opportunity
The Formal Beginnings of Sampoerna
Taman Sampoerna
Sampoerna Theatre

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The founder of Sampoerna,
Liem Seeng Tee, c. 1951


The Journey Begins

The story of Sampoerna begins in 1898 in the Fujian Chinese village of Anxi.
It was in the late spring of that year that Liem Tioe bought passage on a cargo sail
boat heading south to the Indian Ocean for himself and his two young children, a girl
aged six and a boy aged five. Only the three of them boarded the ship bound for
Indonesia because the mother of the two children, Tan Sie Nio, had tragically passed
away the previous winter. It was her death that seemed to have prompted Liem Tioe
to seek a milder climate, more promising working conditions, and a new life for his
young family. On its voyage south, the boat stopped briefly at the ... continue

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The Beginnings of the Business & Family

The young Seeng Tee worked solidly on the trains for 18 months without a day off.
Although the work was physically demanding, it enabled him to save enough money
to buy a second-hand bicycle. This was a significant purchase for the young Seeng
Tee because it gave him the mode of transport he needed to start a new business
plying charcoal up and down the streets of Surabaya. During his ... continue

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Tremendous Opportunity

Then a tremendous opportunity presented itself in early 1916. Seeng Tee was
given the opportunity to purchase a large quantity of various blends of tobacco from
a tobacco trader who had gone bankrupt. The one seemingly insurmountable condition
of the purchase was that cash settlement had to be made by the end of the next day.
Dejectedly, Seeng Tee returned to the stall that evening to tell his wife about the lost
opportunity. It was simply impossible to finance a purchase of that magnitude in the
time allowed by the Bankruptcy Commission. After an extended discussion with Tjiang
Nio, however, she agreed that this was an opportunity that could not be missed. She
fetched a small stool from the back of the stall and used it to reach ... continue

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The Formal Beginnings of Sampoerna

By 1913, Seeng Tee and Tjiang Nio’s small business had
grown to the point where it was informally incorporated
under the name Handel Maatschappij Liem Seeng Tee,
which evolved into Handel Maatschappij Sampoerna a short
time later. After World War II, the company’s name was
changed again, this time to PT Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna,
substituting the Indonesian language for the original Dutch
but keeping the pre-War initials, HM. For Seeng Tee, it was
important his products catered to all levels of the population,
so in addition ... continue

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Taman Sampoerna

Seeng Tee and Tjiang Nio’s house under the railroad bridge which
had been razed by fire and rebuilt eventually had a third storey
added to accommodate the addition of two daughters to the
family, Sien, born in 1921, and Hwee, born in 1926. The family
remained in this house until 1927 when a house and small ware-
house were purchased for cash on Jalan Ngaglik No. 9 which was
then located on the very outskirts of Surabaya. It was at the Jalan
Ngaglik house and warehouse that Seeng Tee spent much of his time testing different blends and combinations of ... continue

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Sampoerna Theatre

When first saw the large central building of the
ex Dutch-supported orphanage complex, Tjiang
Nio, always the thrifty one, asked Seeng Tee what
he planned to do with the huge central building.
Seeng Tee immediately announced that he would
convert the central hall into a theatre, which he did.
Sampoerna Theatre was built to contain the only rotating stage with a false floor in all of Java, providing dramatic special effects rarely seen
at the time. As one of the finest ... continue

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* Excerpts from Sampoerna Family History, originally compiled by John N. Meeks
on the occasion of Sampoerna's 81st Anniversary in 1994. Full version of the story
first appeared at the 1994 Annual Report of PT HM Sampoerna Tbk.

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