TV mogul Surang Prempree has joined the ranks of Thai billionaires, thanks partly to the strong performance of BBTV, Bank of Ayudhya, Siam City Cement and other companies, which are controlled by fellow Thai billionaire Krit Ratanarak.
She is now worth just over US$1 billion (Bt31 billion), up from $930 million in July, according to a Forbes report.
Surang, 70, a television executive known for the dramatic night-time soap operas she produces and as the organiser of the Thailand Miss Universe pageant, has strong family ties to the media business. Her late mother co-founded Bangkok Broadcasting & TV (BBTV) in 1967 with Krit’s late father Chuan. Surang became the broadcaster’s managing director in 1985.
BBTV’s Channel 7 is the country’s most popular station, but the company doesn’t just do media. It also acts as a holding company for stakes in many of the businesses Surang’s and Krit’s families control, including Bank of Ayudhya and Siam City Cement. Those companies have seen growth of 400 and 300 per cent respectively in the past five years, pushing the value of Surang’s 21-per-cent stake in BBTV from $85 million when Forbes started tracking her in 2006 to just over $1 billion today.
Despite shared holdings and decades of working together, Surang and Krit are reportedly at odds. In 2011, after 26 years at the helm of BBTV’s television operations, she was asked to leave by Krit, who owns a majority stake in BBTV. Not ready to abandon television production, she started making shows for competitor Channel 3, owned by another Thai tycoon, Vichai Maleenont, last year.
Surang’s production company Chan 25 is bidding for one of the new high-definition digital channels set to start airing in Thailand some time in the next few years. BBTV, which she still owns a big chunk of, is also in the race, meaning she’ll be competing against herself if both companies get new channels. To resolve matters, BBTV has reportedly offered to buy out her billion-dollar stake, but so far she has refused.
Surang is Thailand’s second female billionaire after Praneetsilpa Vacharaphol, also in the media, who shares her fortune with her children.