Anthony Salim, once described by a journalist as a Ferrari-engined executive, has been helming the Salim Group in the post-Suharto era. He very nearly didn't get a chance to know his father. In 1949, just weeks before he was born, his father came close to losing his life in a car accident. Thankful to be alive, Liem named his newborn Fung Seng, literally meaning “meeting a life”. (Decades later, Anthony lived up to his name by resuscitating the conglomerate his father founded, preventing a neardeath of the companies under the Salim umbrella, in the aftermath of the 1997 financial crisis that also ultimately led to the overthrown of Suharto, Salim's main patron.)
Anthony's stewardship of the business group was a gradual process, at least in the eyes of the public. If indeed Liem noticed early that the youngest of his three sons was the brightest, the boldest and the hungriest to get into business, he would not acknowledge it to the world. It is a credit to Liem, though, that he was wise enough to break from the traditional Chinese thinking that the eldest son is automatically the heir apparent and thus entitled to inherit the business. In his early teens, Anthony often accompanied his father to his factories; when he returned in 1971 from his studies overseas, he was impatient to learn the ropes of Salim's growing stable of businesses. Nurturing his youngest son's curious mind, Liem frequently took Anthony along to meetings with Cabinet ministers, officials, other businessmen, as well as with Suharto. Those meetings gave the young man an opportunity to learn by observing. For a long time, Liem refused to be drawn into speculation about who among his children would take over the reins of the group. His older sons Albert and Andree were also assigned to Salim businesses, but Anthony showed keenness to get into every pie.
Asked in 1984 if Anthony was the group's “crown prince”, Liem was purposely non-committal, commenting: “All the children are the same. What's needed here is teamwork. Those who say that Anton will replace me are outsiders.” The year Anthony returned from a two-year course in the United Kingdom, Suharto officiated at the opening of the Salim's first huge industrial venture, Bogasari Flour Mills.