Jho Low reveals the business behind the parties
July 29, 2010 (MI)
KUALA LUMPUR, July 29 — The young Malaysian who has been making headlines around the globe for his partying ways has revealed he started managing millions at the age of 20 and now handles a US$1 billion (RM3.2 billion) fund.
Low Taek Jho told The Star in an exclusive interview published today that he took a semester off from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 to start an investment fund called The Wynton Group with US$25 million from his family and nine other investors made up of schoolmates from the Middle East.
“We started out with mainly portfolio investments around the world. Subsequently, we decided to move from just buying and selling public shares to private equity.
“As of today, Wynton’s investments stands at in excess of US$1 billion. When I started the company when I was still in university, I had a SOHO, home-office type concept. Subsequently, it was formalised and we had offices in Malaysia, Singapore and headquarters in the British Virgin Islands,” the Penang-born told The Star.
The Arab-speaking Low added that the group is now relocating its headquarters to Abu Dhabi.
“I have a lot of close friends and good contacts in Abu Dhabi. In particular, I am very good friends with His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, who is formerly the director of international relations at the Crown Prince’s court and he is currently the ambassador for UAE to [the] US and Mexico. Yousef is the son of Dr Mana Al Otaiba who is the first oil minister for the UAE.
“I think the great thing between Abu Dhabi and Malaysia is that they have really committed a lot to Malaysia and I think it is not only what we can see from the press on the G-to-G (government-to-government) level but even at the private business levels. There is a lot of trust from them with respect to local Malaysian companies operating in Abu Dhabi especially in the construction sector,” said the third son of Penang businessman Datuk Danny Low.
But Low remains on the board of UBG Berhad as group advisor and non-independent, non-executive director since 2008. He is also group advisor to several international corporations involved in global private equity, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), buy outs, government-to-government offset structured investments, and financing.
He also pointed out that his businesses are run without using a website or social networking sites like Twitter.
“No, that’s definitely not mine,” he said when asked whether he owned the website www.taek-jho-low.com.
“I don’t have a Twitter account and I do not have a website either. But I notice that many websites and blog sites have my name on it. But they’re not mine,” Low added.
In the interview with The Star, Low revealed his personal background, where education and sports played the central role.
“I was a state swimmer. I swam the backstroke for my primary Union school,” he said when the discussion turned to him being described as chubby by the international media. He weighs 88kg and stand 170cm tall.
Low said he remained a swimmer until arriving in the US in 2000, where he began eating huge portions like an American. He had earlier described having an ordinary childhood in Penang until he was 16-years old when his parents sent him to study in Harrow School, which boasts of having educated seven British prime ministers.
Low said he cherished his years in Penang but readily admitted “that in terms of maturing into a business person” was from the time he was at Harrow till the Wharton School of Business.
Known more for being in the company of celebrities such as Paris Hilton and comedian Jamie Foxx, the 28-year-old said his business came from being “at the right time and meeting the right people coupled with a trusting relationship”.
“There were a few key relationships which I started to develop there. Harrow had lots of children of prominent European, Asian and Middle Eastern families. That’s when I met the former King of Jordan’s son among others.
“That time was a very important time for me. That’s when I felt that I built the core foundation of contacts for the future. That’s quite important, because that’s when you know them as friends and you build the trust level for the future as opposed to meeting someone during the course of your business life,” he said.
Low went to Wharton immediately after Harrow where he expanded his network of friends and relationships between 2000 and 2005, when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics, majoring in Finance.
“Throughout the course of 1998 to 2005, it turned out to be a key development period. I believe in hard work and persistence,” he said.
Low noted that he wrote “a couple of articles for the Wharton journal. Some recommendations turned out well, some were terrible” when asked the reasons for picking energy company Enron which later failed.
“I didn’t buy Enron although I wrote a stock pick on it which turned out to be a terrible recommendation. And through these experiences, we learnt to be better investors.
“Continuing from the previous question, I wouldn’t chose a particular stock as a best stock as Wharton educates you to look at a diverse portfolio. At the end of the day, it is about managing risk adjusted returns through diversification,” he said.
He also spoke passionately about business for Malaysians in the Middle East.
“I see a lot of opportunities for Malaysians, especially in the Middle East, just purely because there is so much liquidity and capital and vice versa from Middle East to Malaysia, which is where my interest is.
“Ultimately, I am Malaysian. I am one who does not forget my country or my state. And I think there is a lot we can do for Malaysia. But first, you must build the trust of your investors and then you need to deliver what you promised to investors,” Low said.
I like this guy at least this is one Malaysian who have been globe trotting and never forgets his roots. So anybody interested to send their sons to Harrow and Wharton? I would, unfortunately I do not have that big money to spend out of my pocket.