ON THE BEAT WITH WONG CHUN WAI
Sunday August 1, 2010
Malaysians, and the world, will continue to hear about Low Taek Jho if his present flamboyant lifestyle continues.
LET’S admit it – a lot of us would like to be in the shoes of businessman Jho Low. He is flush with cash, parties with Hollywood celebrities and rubs shoulders with the most influential and powerful.
You either love or loathe the 28-year-old businessman who has been dubbed the international mystery man by the world media for his parties with Paris Hilton and Megan Fox and his penchant for expensive champagne.
I had the opportunity to meet this chubby Penangite last week at his office in one of the top floors of Petronas Twin Towers.
He was more interested in talking about how he made his money, mostly in the Middle East, and his friendship with Arab princes who studied with him at Harrow, an English boarding school that has produced seven prime ministers, and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
I was more interested in asking him about his exploits, if the word is appropriate, with Paris Hilton and his Hollywood friends.
It was obvious that Low Taek Jho wanted to clear the many media stories, mostly fabricated, that had been reported about him.
He tried to play down the hefty bills for his champagne, his parties and the limousines at his New York apartment, which he said he shares with 11 others.
But I couldn’t help feeling that Low wanted to say that as a single, young man who has made millions, he has the right to be a party animal.
Never mind if he is using his own money – or that of his Arab friends. His lifestyle may be seen as excessive and a waste by others in conservative Malaysia.
Low, who described himself as a businessman and entrepreneur, makes his money by making money for his clients. That’s what people who handle funds do, and he has a portfolio of rich clients.
He puts deals together for businessmen and even governments, using his extensive networking and mostly friendships from his school and university days.
No one can dispute his link with powerful Arab figures like Yousef Al Otaiba, who is currently the ambassador for the UAE to the United States and Mexico.
He talked about certain Hollywood celebrities as if they are his drinking buddies, which they are.
When asked if he had invited Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones legend, to watch the World Cup in South Africa, his reply was: “I didn’t. I invited Leonardo (Dicaprio) who in turn invited Mick Jagger.”
Are actor Daniel Craig, who plays James Bond, and multi-millionaire rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs his neighbours at his apartments?
His reply was: “I don’t know but I have been inside the lift with Sean Combs.”
He denied having any romantic links with Paris Hilton nor any interest in her sister Nicole, saying he was a family friend of the Hiltons and that he handled their investment portfolio.
Low talked of bringing his Hollywood friends to visit Malaysia to promote the country, saying these people had millions of followers on their Twitter.
“Can you imagine the impact they can create for tourism when they promote Malaysia on their Tweets with their millions of followers?”
That would certainly be cheaper than placing advertisements on billboards and in the media, particularly when the international media would also follow these celebrities here.
An advocate of the Blue Ocean Strategy, he has put that on his status message of his Blackberry.
He also sees West Asia and China as massive markets.
Low sees himself as a loyal Malaysian who wants to bring Arab investors to his country, including to Johor’s Iskandar Development project.
But he has also invited criticism with his new-found fame.
His detractors have questioned his credibility and integrity and there are unflattering comments about how he conducts himself and his business deals.
Some have said he is hardly the brilliant financial strategist he has made himself out to be, brushing him off as merely a good salesman. They were outraged by the media prominence accorded to him, including by this newspaper.
But many of these critics have also admitted that they do not know him personally but picked up the negative remarks from friends or friends of friends or the blogs.
His friends, including some powerful figures, say he does not need to open himself to these criticisms as he could choose to stay away. After all, New York and Abu Dhabi are his two working bases.
Malaysians, and the world, will continue to hear about him if his present flamboyant lifestyle continues. He will make good copy for the media.
Hate him or love him, he has attracted attention. This writer has received endless telephone calls from media and business people who want to know him personally, and they include those who hate his guts.