Sportsman and philanthropist

Tan Sri Alex Lee Yu Lung, was known for his involvement in various sports, and was instrumental in putting Malaysian squash on the world stage.

He was also a banker, a deputy minister, a philanthropist and he served as legal adviser to about 55 different guilds and associations.

Lee was the youngest son of Tun H.S. Lee, one of the country’s founding fathers, and the nation’s first finance minister. Born in Kuala Lumpur on May 25, 1939, he had his early education at the Batu Road School, and the Victoria Institution, before obtaining his Masters at London’s Inner Temple in 1961. On his return home, Lee joined Skrine & Co where he practised law for 15 years.

Lee had a life-long passion for sport. He represented Cambridge University in badminton in 1961, he captained his college in tennis and he served as cox, steering winning crews in the Cambridge trials and at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1959. He was a member of Malaysia’s Davis Cup squad in 1962.

A former MCA member, Lee joined Gerakan (Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, one of the Barisan Nasional component parties) and became the party’s vice-president and national treasurer. He was appointed a senator in 1979 and was elected Member of Parliament for the Batu constituency in 1986. He served as Deputy Agriculture Minister until June 1989. He became Deputy Works Minister before his appointment as Deputy National Unity and Social Development Minister, between October 1990 and May 1995.

Lee had contributed tirelessly to the development of Gerakan for 25 years, before his retirement from politics in 1995 for health reasons.

A latecomer to the world of sports administration, Lee had a good grasp of sports and could recite the Olympic Charter by heart. He was in the forefront of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and was leading the campaign to get squash into the Olympics.

His popularity among the Commonwealth nations enabled him to be one of the prime movers in lobbying for the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Lee was also a key member of Malaysia’s 2006 Asian Games and 2008 Olympic bid.

Among his sporting credentials, Lee was vice-president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia for ten years, and was vice-chairman of the Commonwealth Federation, President of the Malaysian Volleyball Association and also of the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia. He was also among the few Malaysians who became members of the St Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club. His outdoor interests ranged from snorkelling and scuba diving to windsurfing.

Lee’s lasting legacy for Malaysian sports was his contribution towards the rapid growth and rise of squash in the country. It is the only sport that has produced two world champions for Malaysia, Ong Beng Hee, the men’s junior champion, and women’s champion and world No. 1 Nicol David.

Other than sports, Lee was actively involved in the promotion of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). He owned Software International Corp (M) Sdn Bhd, a software solutions company, with MSC status.

Lee married a German, Datin Seri Irene Lee Jucker, whom he met while studying in Cambridge. They had three sons.

Lee received the Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) in 2000, which carries the title “Tan Sri”. He was also declared the Tokoh Sukan, 1999.

He received the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak in 1986. In 1961 he was awarded the Law Prize by Leys School & McMahon Scholarship by St John’s College, Cambridge.

Lee was in the prime of his career in sports when he died in a scuba diving mishap on October 31, 1999, in Papua New Guinea. He was 60 years old.

A study grant from Tan Sri Alex Lee Athlete Educational Fund, set up in 1999 and managed by OCM, was established to provide scholarships to eligible athletes for further studies. The fund has already benefitted eight athletes since its inception.