International Man of Mystery Low Taek Jho, who parties with Hollywood celebrities and is now Malaysia’s most famous socialite, has aroused so much worldwide curiosity that there has been a lot of online searches about him. He recently granted an exclusive interview to The Star, the leading English daily in Malaysia, to shed some light into his background, his life, his career and a whole range of other points.
Jho Low, aged 28, was born in Penang where he lived till he was 16. At 16, his parents sent him to Harrow School in England. He is the third and youngest child in the family of Datuk Larry Low, the founder of the engineering company MWE. He can speak English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Hokkien, Teo Chew and Basic Arabic.
Low attributed his success to being in the right place at the right time and going to the right schools – Harrow School in England (A-Levels) and The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, in the United States (Bachelor of Science in Economics majoring in Finance). Harrow had lots of children of prominent European, Asian and Middle Eastern families, enabling him to build the core foundation of contacts for the future. At Wharton, he expanded his network , further cementing his relationships with Arab royalty and well-connected Middle East friends especially those from Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.
Jho Low made his first million – in US dollars – when he was barely 20 years old when he took a semester off from The Wharton School of Business to set up an investment fund called The Wynton Group with US$25mil from family and nine South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The company started out by dealing mainly in portfolio investments around the world. It later moved from just buying and selling public shares to private equity. The company, in which he owns a stake, now has offices in Malaysia, Singapore and headquarters in British Virgin Island and is now worth in excess of US$1bil.
Wynton is planning to launch a new US$1 billion real estate and hospitality fund sometime in October, mainly for investing in real estate, hotels and hospitality projects around the world.
A US$250 million entertainment fund is also in the pipeline because Wynton believes there is some synergy between real estate and entertainment. This fund covers the whole spectrum from fashion to movies and so forth. Shooting Hollywood movies in Malaysia is a vital part of Jho Low’s plans to help attract investments to the country. He has been trying to convince his Hollywood friends like Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and Leonardo di Caprio to use Malaysia as a location for movies.
The third fund will be a US$250 million general fund.
All these fund sizes are the initial first phase equity commitment that the company is securing which means that actual fund sizes and purchasing power could be much larger. An equity of US$1 billion could have a potential purchasing power in excess of US$2 billion or more after leverage. The new headquarters will be a 20,000sq ft office in Sowwah Island in Abu Dhabi.
Jho Low was appointed to the board of UBG Bhd as group adviser and non-independent & non-executive director in 2008. He is also group adviser to several international corporations involved in global private equity, M&A and buyouts.
He lives a globe-trotting life covering Los Angeles, New York, London, St Tropez, Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur. He parties with Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Jamie Foxx, Lindsay Lohan and Usher but claims that news reports about the parties are exaggerated. His Arab childhood friends and investors are actually the spenders, not him. He is the person who calls to make the reservations on behalf of his Arab friends and investors. His name is thus all over the place, putting him under the global spotlight.
On that particular occasion when the New York Post ran the article about him and his lavish spending, it was in reference to a party that was thrown for a friend’s engagement. He was just helping to coordinate the party arrangements as usual. Even his lavish 28th birthday party in Las Vegas was a surprise party thrown by a group of his close friends.
He is not going out with Paris Hilton but they have been to several parties together because he is a friend of her parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton. Things had been blown out of proportions by the media according to Jho Low.
Low vehemently dismissed talk that he was “wasting a lot of money partying”.
“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle the investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.
“I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”
On the home front, Jho Low dispelled talk that he is involved in the controversial redevelopment of the TUDM Sungai Besi airbase. He denied the allegations that he had received a RM500 million contract for the project. He stressed that he has no involvement whatsoever.
Jho Low thinks Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had great vision when he was Prime Minister with big spending in Malaysian infrastructure which resulted in Malaysian-based construction companies becoming leaders in the global construction arena. Many Malaysian companies are now doing sophisticated construction work in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and all over the Middle East.
He talked about his superstar friend – Usher – who wants to help him start a charity programme for children here to learn the business part of the entertainment industry. He has known Usher for a long time. He met Usher in New York when he was working with Usher on Usher’s New Look Foundation, a charity assisting children who want careers in the business side of the entertainment industry. He mentored these kids, advising them on writing business plans.
With this interview by The Star, we get a glimpse into the life of this international man of mystery and Jho Low achieved his objective of de-mystifying himself. No more “Jho Who?”. He is Low, Jho Low….licensed to kill invest your money. May the force be with Jho!