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Here Are Some Actual, Very Crazy and Very Rich Asians

Eccentric habits and pastimes of Asian billionaires
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So we’ve read the book and/or seen the movie and we’ve all wondered if the continent’s richest people really spend their money that way. The answer is yes, they do. Spending on luxurious items and parties may be conventional but having a few billion dollars to spare can push someone to indulge in strange activities or purchases.

Cecil Chao

A property developer in China and Malaysia, Cecil Chao is said to be worth over two billion dollars. The 81-year-old owner of Ceuk Nang Holdings is a bit of a playboy, having been known to be a lover of 10,000 women. You would think this means he understands love, but the eccentric billionaire disapproves of his daughter, Gigi, being with another girl.

In 2014, he offered a prize money of $180 million to any man who can marry his daughter. Gigi, however, did not fall for the charms of the many men from all over the world who responded to his father’s call. Despite this disagreement, Cecil and Gigi continue to work together in the company.

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Wang Sicong

Wang Sicong is the son of China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin. He is what is known as a fuerdai, China’s second-generation rich. Wang Sicong heads the property giant Dalian Wanda, worth about US$ 15 billion while his son runs the $64 million private equity firm Prometheus Capital and a gaming company called Invictus. While Wang Jianlin had his own outrageous purchases, including a USD 105 million property in London, as well as a film studio in Hollywood, Wang Sicong bought things that made headlines around the world.

Some of these crazy purchases were not for himself. They were for his dog, Coco, and it includes eight iPhone 7 units and two Apple watches. For himself, he rented an entire resort to celebrate his birthday and even invited K-Pop group T-ara for this occasion. A party animal, Sicong has also spent around $29,000 in a club during Halloween night and US$ 367,000 in a karaoke bar.

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Chen Guangbiao

The tycoon who founded Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources, estimated to be worth US$720 million to $740 million, has a penchant for publicity. One of them is feeding 1,000 Americans in a fancy restaurant in Central Park back in 2014. He even promised to give them $300 cash gifts as an extra. This invite was posted in major newspapers in America. The catch? They have to listen to him sing. That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

That wasn’t the first time Chen Guangbiao made headlines. In 2008, he donated $16 million to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. In the following years, he also raised awareness about the importance of charity donations by doing public stunts such as stacking piles of cash to form a wall and dancing on top of brand new cars that he bought to donate. In 2011, he also went to Taiwan to hand out $200,000 in cash, but was met with criticism from local authorities. In 2013, he distributed cans of fresh air to raise awareness about air pollution. The same year, he tried to buy the New Tork Times, CNN, and Wall Street Journal.

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He sounds like an okay guy, right? However, aside from meddling in geopolitics like taking out newspaper ads in the US to proclaim that disputed islands in Japan were China’s, he was also accused of fake charity donations. In 2016, a Chinese investigative publication reported an expose about Chen’s company falsifying and exaggerating their donations. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all. 


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Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei

The Sultan of Brunei is definitely one of the wealthiest monarchs in the world, with some estimating his wealth to worth be around US$15 billion. Aside from having several Boeing 747 planes (one even equipped with pure gold sinks). One time, he bought one of his sons a Mercedes Benz fully covered in pure diamonds, just because.

One of his craziest buys was actually a simple haircut. His total cost was—wait for it—a whopping $24,500. This entailed flying his favorite barber, Ken Modestu, from London to Brunei. Worried that his barber may get swine flu or some other sickness from other passengers onboard, the sultan even got a private luxury cabin for his barber worth $18,000. Ken usually charges $50 for a trim but he leaves with an envelope thick with thousands of dollars in cash every time the sultan sits in his chair.

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Bidzina Ivanishvili

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Somewhere in Georgia, located in West Asia, Bidzina Ivanishvili is happy staring at his collection of wild animals and ancient trees. Bidzina is a former Prime Minister of Georgia and who started out as a cleaner at a factory. He later amassed wealth now estimated to be valued at about US$5 billion with a steel business he started in Russia. He moved back to Georgia, where he established his own political party. He served as prime minister of the country briefly, from October 2012 to November 2013.

Ivanishvili lives in a compound overlooking the Georgian capital. His estate would make any James Bond villain green with envy. Not only does he have his own waterfall, he also has private zoo of exotic animals, and his own shark tank. At another residence, Ivanishvili keeps zebras, kangaroos, penguins, other such creatures. Back in his home village, he also gives every resident USD 80 per month and if you’re a newlywed, you get USD 1,200.

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What caught the attention of international press was his 2016 purchase and transport of a 135-year old, 650-pound tree over the waters of the Black Sea to his personal forest. It cost him $45,000. Several critics have called him out, but he rebuked them by saying he purchased it legally—and what's wrong with having a tree-collecting hobby?  

Chavit Singson

You would see him behind Manny Pacquiao during his games. Most recently, he has been seen hanging out with K-Pop group Momoland. Of course, Chavit Singson deserves the VIP treatment and passes to the most exclusive events that he gets because, according to the man himself, his net revenue amounts to P120 million a month. This is believable, since he has various business, including construction and transport, that earns him up to billions per year. And what to do with all that money?

One of his most interesting properties is Baluarte, an 80-hectare interactive wildlife sanctuary in his home province of Ilocos Sur. It has become a popular tourist destination because of the Chavit’s collection of exotic animals, including impalas, ostriches, and camels.  

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“For years, I’ve been traveling the world for this purpose and was able to reach countries as far as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, Sweden and New Zealand. From each destination I brought home beautiful souvenirs like elephant, buffalo, rhino, lions, etc. I had all these animals shipped to Baluarte so that Filipinos who can’t afford to visit said countries will see them in the flesh for free,” he said in an interview with The Standard.

He has also forayed into entertainment. He is behind the travel show Happy Life, and of course, one can never forget him being responsible for bringing the Miss Universe pageant to the Philippines. For this event, he had to shell out US$6 million to pay for the rights to hold the pageant in the country, and another $6 million to mount the production. Along with the other expenses, including a yacht trip for the candidates, Chavit was recorded to have spent a total of $15 million.

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IMAGE: Jason Quibilan

Jon Jiang

Jon Jiang’s name isn’t often seen in business papers or websites until his moviemaking venture in 2009. He had a vision to create a Chinese movie that would rival Avatar and Star Wars.

Like any real estate billionaire who had US$140 million to spare, he hired a bunch of Western talents and crew members from all over the world. The only problem was that Jon was so invested with the project that he’d often clash with the directors, resulting in five turnovers and a very dodgy-looking trailer. The movie was called Empires of the Deep and the film was never officially finished.

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Jon wrote the script which went through 40 rewrites, with the help of 10 Hollywood screenwriters. He claimed that he had enough experience to make a movie by watching 4,000 movies. Half a year of shooting later, the movie was in its editing stage with no clear story. There were even rumors that some of the crew and cast were getting paid late. Six years later, they brought in the main actors to reshoot, but nothing came out of the production.

In 2016, they tried to raise US$150,000 on a Chinese crowdfunding site to get the movie released, but failed. Was Jon cutting his losses or has this movie been abandoned? Did he spend that much money in the first place? Well, we'll always have this trailer:

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About The Author
Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for SPOT.ph and Entrepreneur.com.ph.
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