|Born||17 February 1938|
|Died||13 February 1983(aged 44)|
|Cause of death||Aircraft explosion |
|Residence||Colombo, Cinnamon Gardens (Sinhala:කුරුඳු වත්ත), Sri Lanka|
|Other names||Philip Upali Wijewardene|
|Education||Royal College, Colombo|
|Occupation||Chairman of Upali Group (Kandos, Upali Air, Upali Mazda, Upali Newspapers)|
|Known for||Richest Person in Sri Lanka at his time (1970s–1980s)|
|Net worth||US$3.2 billion in 1975-1981|
Philip Upali Wijewardene (Sinhala:උපාලි විජයවර්ධන) (17 February 1938 - 13 February 1983) was a well-known businessman in Sri Lanka who established the Upali Group. At the time of his death, Wijewardene had branched into newspapers, confectionery and even started a domestic air line named Upali Air. He died on February 13, 1983, when his private Learjet exploded in mid air. Young Upali acquired all his wealth within very short span of time 1 year(at the age of 32, one of the early success stories in the world. he entered business career after leaving Lever Brothers. Also He owned more than 3 Learjets later he expanded and 2 Helicopters, He was on the top of 10 wealthiest people in the world at the time. He was mentioned in the Insight Magazine UK: ‘Largely through bravado and wit" His venture was the first Multi-national business in Sri Lanka.
When his death took place on February 13, 1983, when his private Learjet exploded in mid air after he was returning home opening one of his factories in Malaysia in 80s he was estimated over |net worth = US$ 3.2 billion in 1975-1981 and present rumored to be |net worth = US$ 50- US$ 80 billion in 2010. Compared Net wroth and time period taken by bill gates in 1980s Bill Gates 32 became a billionaire, while Mr. Upali Wijewardene was in his Mid 30s was flying in his own private Jets, Helicopters owned a Multinational Business and topped in UK wealth Charts .
Life and career 
Early life 
The young Upali who lost his father at the age of l 1/2 years was brought up by his mother Anula Kalyanawathie Wijewardene. Upali was educated at Prestigious Royal College, Colombo. He later graduated from Queen's College of Cambridge University in England.
On his return to Sri Lanka Upali commenced his business career as a Management Trainee at Lever Brothers. Thereafter, he ventured out on his own and founded the Upali Group of Companies under the sign of the eternal symbol of energy "THE SUN".
Wijewardene entered the medium of comics with Chithra Mithra (Picture Friend) in February (1981) because it offered a large market to begin a publication without advertising and it allowed him to test his printing presses. Within a few months, the magazine reached a circulation of 200,000 eclipsing its competitors Sittara (100,000) and Satuta (75,000). Media initially described the magazine as "romance, booze, money, travel, dreams, adventure, wild women" crammed into 16 pages. It quickly expanded into 32 pages with a different story on every page. Editor Janaka Ratnayake noted that the publication had "many topics–romance, detective, sci-fi, heroes, two pages built around movie stars, and almost a page of pen pal" (1993). All the stories were serialized and in black and white with a spot of one color.
The comic magazine fell apart after Wijewardene's death and ceased publication in 1986 with a circulation of 15,000. Ratnayake cited the failure of the magazine to Wijewardene's early death, sub-standard printing quality of the paper due to unskilled mechanics and competition from other magazines.
Horse Racing 
The name Upali Wijewardene was synonymous with "The Sport of all Kings", Horse Racing. He was the Chairman Board of Stewards of the Sri Lanka Turf Club and was a keen turfite, who raced in Sri Lanka and England, where he won the "Royal Ascot" with "Rasa Penang" ridden by the world famous jockey Lester Piggott.
In 1980 he also won the Singapore Derby at the Bukit Timah Race Course in Singapore and the Perak Derby at the Perak Turf Club in Malaysia with his horse, named "Vaaron". He raced "General Atty" too and won many races in England. He flew to all these countries where his horses were racing, in his private aircraft. He made it a point to fly from Newmarket to Nuwara Eliya to watch his horses and ponies racing there too.
He would land in Katunayake Airport and make a quick tarmac change to his private helicopter to fly to Nuwara Eliya. Wijewardene was responsible for reviving pony racing and thereafter, horse racing during the time there was a lull in racing
A British journalist, Matt Miller, described him in Insight Magazine: ‘Largely through bravado and wit, Philip Upali Wijewardene parlayed a bankrupt confectionery plant into Sri Lanka’s only multi national business group and one of Asia’s leading cocoa based products conglomerates. Intriguingly he accomplished his overseas empire-building at a time when his country strictly prohibited the export of currency. And now the 43-year-old commodity wizard (this was 1981) has started what could be Upali's Third Plan... He would be willing, he says with uncharacteristic restraint, to become Sri Lanka's president someday’.
See also 
- Jaye's nephew with 5 in missing Learjet (Articles + Illustrations) Page 1, NST, The Straites Times, Singapore on 15 February 1983
- 6 Nations join search for Upali Page 1, The Straites Times, Singapore on 16 February 1983
- The Wijewardene Ancestry
- Upali Wijewardene – rare business genius