I meet a large number of rich Asians in my line of business. Some love watches and spend fortunes on their collections; some are golf fanatics; others love big, fancy yachts or crazily priced super-cars. But all have one thing in common -a love of property! And I must confess - I too, subscribe to this pan-Asian religion.
For most of the rich, this "religion" is also their primary source of fortune. For the ones who draw their billions outside of the property market, they still invest heavily in property. Usually, the trophy kind, and more than likely, a lion part of their income goes into property investment.
There is no other group of property tycoons who influenced Phuket more than Singaporeans. Let's take a look at a few wealthy Singaporeans. We will find that a significant number of them derive their fortune and/or are engaged in the property business. And, Singaporeans love to invest in Phuket!
The 4th richest Singaporean with $7.6B of fortune is Kwek Leng Beng, the executive chairman of Singapore's City Developments - Singapore's second-largest property developer. Kwek's companies are acquiring assets in the UK, China and Australia, and also own a chain of hotels including some of the fanciest hotels in Singapore such as St Regis Hotel and Residences. In Phuket, they own the fabulous Jungceylon Shopping Mall and the 421-room Millennium Resort Patong Phuket.
The other famous and outstanding project in progress is Mont Azure, a large multipurpose project in Kamala. One of the key investors is the No.7 on the Forbes Singaporean rich list with USD5.4 billion, the Kwee Family. The four Kwee siblings control the privately held Pontiac Land, which owns several luxury hotels and iconic office towers across Singapore, that includes the Ritz Carlton Singapore. The Kwee brothers are currently building an 82-story tower beside the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where apartments sell from $3 million to over $70 million. Last year the brothers bought the Cappella Hotel group from legendary luxury hotelier Horst Schulze.
In 16th place on the Forbes Singaporean rich list, with $1.9B are the husband and wife duo, Ong Beng Seng and Christina Ong. They are one of Singapore's most influential and, well, property loaded couples. Their HPL group owns the chic boutique resort BoatHouse in Kata beach.
But by far, the ones who left the biggest mark on Phuket and were responsible for the creation of the most important project on the island are Mr. K.P. Ho and his wife Claire Chiang - the creators and owners of the Banyan Tree Group and the Laguna Phuket complex, Asia's first integrated destination resort, a holiday paradise of deluxe hotels and villas spanning 1,000 acres of tropical parkland. Laguna became the gold standard of resorts in Phuket and in the region. And their fortune is mostly derived from this flagship property of their hospitality business.
I can go on and on about many other properties owned by compatriots in my adopted country, but I will keep those for a separate article.