Jho Low partying with Paris Hilton in 2010. Photo via http://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com
Jho Low partying with Paris Hilton in 2010. Photo via http://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com

This week, the New York Times released an extensive profile of the young financier, entitled “Well Connected at Home, Young Malaysian Has an Appetite for New York”. Beyond partying with Paris Hilton, what else do we know about Jho Low?

Name, age, location?

Full name Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, was born in Penang. He was educated at the elite Harrow School in England and went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania. He is now 33 years old.

What does he do?

According to the Times, Jho Low started helping a circle of wealthy friends to manage their money back when he was still in college. This group included Riza Aziz, the step-son of PM Najib Rajak, as well as the children of Middle Eastern royalty and well-connected officials.

Later, he was the broker for various property purchases in the US – each worth millions of dollars – claiming to act on behalf of investors. He was also visible when Riza Aziz’s production company Red Granite Pictures made its entrance to Hollywood, though he later denied being the company’s financier.

Is he personally wealthy?

He is widely labelled a billionaire in the media. Although he once played down his own wealth, describing himself as more like a “concierge” for wealthier friends, Jho Low also told the Wall Street Journal that his grandfather made a fortune from mining and liquor investments in Thailand. He has also sold properties to his friend Riza Aziz at a substantial profit.

Why did he come to the attention of the New York Times?

Because of his purchase of several properties in the US, under shell companies. The New York Times investigated the people who have been buying up the city’s luxury condos with “hidden money”. Jho Low’s purchases have included a Time Warner Center condo that once belonged to Jay Z and Beyoncé and was bought for USD30 million. The New York Times profile expands upon Jho Low’s business dealings and his relationship with the Prime Minister’s family.

How is he involved in 1MDB?

Jho Low has said that he has no official role in the Malaysian government owned company 1MDB, stating that he instead offers his opinions to the board from time to time. However, according to the New York Times, several of his friends are on the board of members.

Earlier this year, the Edge Media Group’s publisher Datuk Tong Kooi Ong accused Jho Low of being behind an online smear campaign against critics of 1MDB, including himself, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Nazir Razak. Jho Low has in turn called these claims false and defamatory.

Update: On 28 February, Sarawak Report published a series of investigative reports alleging that Jho Low used PetroSaudi as a front to control 1MDB money. The reports claim that some of this money was used to buy over UBG Bank from the Chief Minister of Sarawak, at a favourable price to the Chief Minister. (02/03/2015)

What’s next for Jho Low?

Jho Low has been investing in contemporary art, and has already amassed an impressive collection with his purchasing power. He also has philanthropic ventures, most notably through Jynwel Foundation, the charitable arm of his company, Jynwel Capital. In October last year, Jynwel launched a bid to buy Reebok from Adidas AG for USD2.2 billion.

Read the full profile on The New York Times

Related post: 10 things you should know about 1MDB

Infographic by Aisya Yusof.

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Datuk Tong Kooi Ong