Tanri Abeng: Ex-State Minister Dies at 82.

Balidiscovery.com has learned of the death of a dear friend and colleague, Tanri Abeng, who died at age 82  on Sunday, 24 June 2024, in Jakarta.

Tanri Abeng’s diversified and absorbing life story epitomizes what it is to truly be a “self-made Renaissance Man,” possessing an almost incalculable reserve of talent and intellect.

Born into a largely illiterate family on 07 March 1942 in an impoverished village on Selayar Island, Sulawesi, both of Tanri Abeng’s parents had died by the time he was ten years old. He was then sent to live with relatives in Makassar to attend high school. Identified early as a gifted student, he was sent to complete high school in the U.S.A. under the American Field Service (A.F.S.) Exchange Program.

Dr. H. Tanri Abeng, MBA

Back home in Makassar, Tanri attended Hasanuddin University for five years before completing an M.B.A. program at the University at Buffalo, New York. A fresh graduate and in a conscious effort to place himself in a challenging professional position, Abeng joined a management training program with Union Carbide in America that resulted in an assignment (1969-1979) as the Finance Manager of Union Carbide Indonesia and eventually as the Director of that Company.

Other senior management positions following his return from the U.S.A. to Jakarta included a stint as the Director of Agrocarb Indonesia and a director of  Karmi Arafura Fisheries (1971-1979).

Seeking to prove his mettle in a competitive international business setting, Tanri Abeng worked as marketing manager for Union Carbide in Singapore (1977-1979).

In 1979, Tanri moved to a senior management role with the Dutch Company Heineken at P.T. Perusahaan Bir Indonesia despite being a teetotaler and unable to speak Dutch. Tanri Abeng quickly changed the Company’s name from P.T. Perusahaan Bir Indonesia to Multi Bintang Indonesia. Demonstrating his legendary management expertise, Abeng managed, by 1982, to record a profit of Rp. 4 billion, increasing from the five hundred million recorded when he first joined the Dutch brewery. 

In 1991, Tanri Abeng resigned as the C.E.O. of Multi Bintang and moved to the Indonesian conglomerate Bakrie & Brothers, a company owned by Aburizal Bakrie. He served as the C.E.O. of Bakrie & Brothers while simultaneously serving as the non-executive chairman of Multi-Bintang, a senior advisory role he retained until 1998.

As the C.E.O. of Bakrie & Brothers, Tanri Abeng was responsible for the operations of more than 60 subsidiaries across a wide range of industries. As part of Bakrie & Brothers restructuring, Abeng refocused the huge conglomerate on three main industrial sectors: telecommunications, infrastructure development, and plantation agriculture. Tanri Abeng also invested Bakrie & Brothers in mining, petrochemicals, and construction projects. 

When Tanri Abeng joined Bakrie & Brothers, annual sales revenues averaged around US$50 million. By the end of 1996, yearly sales had reached US$700 million. As one of Indonesia’s highest-paid C.E.O.s, Tanri Abeng became widely known as the “Rp. 1 Billion Manager,” reflecting his salary. 

In addition to leading the Aurizal Bakrie Conglomerate, Tanri Abeng also simultaneously served as the President Director of Asia Pacific Brewery Singapura (1981-1991), Director of BATA Indonesia (1993-1998), Chairman of B.A.T. Indonesia (1995-1998), and Mitratel Indonesia (1994-1998). 

Outside his corporate and industrial roles, Tanri Abeng has also worked with the National Education Council (Dewan Pendidikan Nasional 1993-1998), National Research Council (Dewan Riset Nasional 1990-1996), Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board (Badan Promosi Pariwisata 1990-1996), the Foundation for Environmental Protection (Yayasan Perlindungan Lingkunan 1993-1998), The Indonesian-Dutch Associations, the Indonesian British Council, and the Asia-Australia Institute.

Abeng also served as the Commissioner of the Jakarta Stock Exchange (Bursa Efek Jakarta 1992 – 1995). 

Tanri Abeng’s Political Carreer 

Tanri Abeng’s political career began in 1991 when he represented the political party Golkar in the People’s Consultative Assembly (M.P.R.). 

In 1998, President Soeharto appointed him Minister for State-Owned Companies (BUMN), a position he retained under B.J. Habibe’s presidency. In 2004, he was made the Chief Commissioner of P.T. Telkom Indonesia.

In possession of a keen intellect, in 2010, at the age of 68, Tanri Abeng earned a multidisciplinary doctorate from the prestigious Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. 

In 2011, Tanri Abeng established the eponymous Universitas Tanri Abang in South Jakarta. At the time, Tanri Abeng revealed that the funds needed to build the campus were obtained by selling the Hotel Aryaduta in Makassar, which he co-owned with businessman James Riady of the Lippo Group. 

Reflecting on his impressive long careers in the public and private sectors and the philanthropy that allowed him to build a university, Tanri Abang said the university built in his name represents an expression of his thanksgiving. He said that the difficulties of his youth inspired his love of education. He added, “Everything started from the past. I am a village boy who was the one able to attend school despite coming from a family of illiterates.”

Concluding: “This Nation needs education. No nation can become prosperous if education does not reach the level where education is controlled and mastered.”


Dr. H. Tanri Abeng, MBA

07 March 1942 – 23 June 2024


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