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Malaysia's new king has a $5.7B family fortune. Here's how he spends his money.

Mikhaila Friel   

Malaysia's new king has a $5.7B family fortune. Here's how he spends his money.
  • Malaysia's new king was appointed on Wednesday as part of the country's rotating monarchy.
  • The king and his family are worth an estimated $5.7 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Malaysia has a new billionaire king who spends his fortune on vintage cars, motorbikes, private jets, and — apparently — exotic animals.

Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, 65, was declared king on Wednesday as part of the country's rotating monarchy. The unique system allows the hereditary rulers from Malaysia's nine royal families to rotate the rule of the monarch every five years.

Sultan Ibrahim is head of the Johor royal family and is considered one of the country's wealthiest men.

Unlike the British royals, who embrace the concept of quiet luxury, the Malaysian monarch regularly shows off his Ferraris and motorbike collection on social media.

Private jets, motorbikes, and 300 luxury cars

Bloomberg made a conservative estimate that the Johors are worth around $5.7 billion.

That's partly due to the family's $1.1 billion investment portfolio, which includes $105 million worth of investments in public companies, $483 million worth of investments in private companies, and various real-estate projects.

Sultan Ibrahim isn't afraid to make his wealth known. You just have to look at his TikTok and Facebook accounts, where he posts photos and videos of his motorbike and luxury car collections, which include a 1980s Ferrari Testarossa and a bright-pink Rolls Royce.

Altogether, the king has 300 luxury vintage cars, including a 1936 Mercedes 540 that once belonged to Adolf Hitler.

In a resurfaced 2013 interview posted to YouTube in 2017, Sultan Ibrahim said he inherited the car from his great-grandfather, who was given the car by Hitler, a family friend.

In addition, he has a collection of private jets, including three Gulfstreams and a gold-and-blue Boeing 737.

The Times of India reported that the king also owns several exotic animals, such as tigers, lions, and crocodiles.

And despite their celebrity status, Sultan Ibrahim and his family appear to enjoy dining at local restaurants. In May 2023, a video posted to the Johor royal family's TikTok account showed them dining at Istanbul Turkish Cuisine, a reservations-only restaurant in Horizon Hills, Johor.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that the king is known for his charitable work. He was previously known to have taken trips around Johor in his Harley-Davidson, where he handed out money to the less fortunate, according to the publication. How much of his wealth he gives to charity, however, is unknown.

A businessman and real-estate mogul

When he isn't undertaking royal duties, Sultan Ibrahim is a businessman known for investing in private companies and real-estate.

According to Bloomberg, he owns just under a quarter of U Mobile, one of Malaysia's largest cellphone providers and a 40 percent stake in Maharani Energy Gateway, an oil and gas company in Johor.

Entrepreneurial ambition seems to run in the family. The king's eldest son, Tunku Ismail the Crown Prince of Johor, owns Johor-based soccer club Johor Darul Ta'zim. The Crown Prince also has the title of regent, meaning he can step in for his father when he is unable to perform his role.

Money is power

The family's money stretches beyond Malaysia and into Singapore.

Bloomberg reported that Sultan Ibrahim owns $4 billion worth of land in the country, including Forest City, a luxury compound that's being built on man-made islands off the coast of Singapore.

When completed, the development is estimated to be half the size of Manhattan and could cost around $100 billion, the publication said.

In a recent interview with The Straits Times, the king unveiled plans to privately restore a high-speed railway line between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital.

The project was previously fronted by the Malaysian and Singapore governments, but was shelved in 2021 due to the expensive cost. According to Bloomberg, it was estimated to cost 100 billion Ringgit, or around $21.2 billion.

"It helps when you have a monarch who has a very good relationship with Singapore," Khairy Jamaluddin, a former cabinet minister in Malaysia, told Bloomberg.

"That relationship has to be elevated in the next few years for us to really present Malaysia and Singapore as a seamless market."

The scope of the king's wealth matters, particularly when it comes to business dealings that would benefit citizens of both countries, such as the railway development. If followed through, the project would help maintain the royal family's good public standing during a period of political instability in Malaysia.

Former King Abdullah Ahmad Shah had to intervene in government proceedings multiple times during his reign. He appointed three prime ministers, twice after the government collapsed, and more recently after an inconclusive election result in November 2022, Bloomberg reported.

Nonetheless, it's worth noting that Sultan Ibrahim and the Johor family's business dealings appear to contradict the country's constitution, which states that the king "shall not actively engage in any commercial enterprise," according to Bloomberg.

The country's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has openly criticized the family, saying they shouldn't be involved in business dealings because of the unfair influence it would have on the Malaysian people, Bloomberg said.

"Unfortunately, the Malays cannot say no to their rulers. Their culture is such that if the rulers want to do something, whatever the constitution or the law may say, they cannot say no," he said, according to the publication.

The Johor royal press office did not respond to a request for comment.

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