SULTAN OF BRUNEI'S WEALTH, CARS AND JETS

SULTAN OF BRUNEI'S WEALTH

The Sultan of Brunei was once regarded as the world's richest man. His wealth in the early 1990s was estimated at $40 billion and some use a similar figure to describe his net worth and assets today. Other monarchies (such as the one in Saudi Arabia) control states worth more money but the money is considered an asset of the state, while the sultan of Brunei's money is closer to a personal asset even though it officially belongs to the state.

The Sultan of Brunei held the position of world's richest man for many years until he was displaced by Bill Gates. By the late 1990s the Sultan of Brunei had fallen to N. 3 as a result of falling oil prices and profligate spending by his brother Prince Jefri. By the early 2000s his fortune was maybe a three fourths of what it once was. In 2008, Forbes ranked him as the world’s fourth richest royal, with a net worth of $20 billion.

The Sultan of Brunei earns $100 a second from oil earning and investments. This works out to around $2 billion a year. His net worth fluctuates greatly depending on a number of factors, most importantly the price of oil and natural gas, which is where his money comes from.

the Sultan of Brunei has used his own money to help prop up currencies and the stock markets in Singapore and Malaysia during the Asian economic crisis in 1997-98. He reportedly sold at least $300 million of his assets to make loans to his Southeast Asia neighbors. He also supported the activities Ollie North, of Iran-Contra affair fame, during administration of U.S. President Reagan in the 1980s, with a $10 million donation.

Sultan of Brunei's Extravagant Lifestyle

The Sultan of Brunei used make headlines in London for his million dollar shopping sprees. When his country became independent in 1984 he treated himself to a $350 million palace. He also owns homes in England, the United States and elsewhere. See Brother Below.

The Sultan of Brunei and his family have indulged themselves in lavish parties, polo ponies, race horses, yachts and hundred of Rolls Royces and hosted a number or celebrities and beauty queens. The sultan paid Elton John, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi and Tina Turner to come to Brunei and entertain him and his friends. In the mid 1990s the sultan and his brother were credited with supplying roughly half of Rolls-Royce’s sales income.

The sultan's extravagance is legendary. While playing polo with Britain's Prince Charles, the sultan once had his polo shoes delivered - by helicopter - to the palace field. The family of the Sultan of Brunei used to spend so much money (up to $500 million a year) at the London jeweler Asprey they decided to buy it. In November 1995 the sultan bought it for $375 million. Asprey has traditionally been the jeweler of the British royal family, or more simply the “Queen’s jeweler.” See Below

Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, the sultan erected a 1,788-room palace on 49 acres, “which is without equal in the world for offensive and ugly display,” in the words of one British magnate, and celebrated his 50th birthday with a blowout featuring a concert by Michael Jackson, who was reportedly paid $17 million, in a stadium built for the occasion. (When the sultan flew in Whitney Houston for a performance, he is rumored to have given her a blank check and instructed her to fill it in for what she thought she was worth: more than $7 million, it turned out.)” And then there were gifts. “An official list from 2002, exposed in Jefri’s legal battle with his brother, details more than $17 billion in payments and presents to family, friends, V.I.P.’s, and entourage, including $18 million to the father of one of the Bolkiahs’ wives, nearly $1.5 million to a badminton coach, and millions more to government officials, some of whom got Porsches, real estate, and jewelry.” [Source: Mark Seal, Vanity Fair, July 2011]

According to bornrich.com: “He doesn't have to think twice about getting a haircut for a mind-boggling $21,000. His sultanate is one of the world’s most financially affluent and communally sheltered societies, where people even do not have to pay any kind of income tax. The Sultan's passion for the world's most expensive, beautiful, rarest, fastest and unique cars knows no boundaries. His personal collection of over 7,000 high performance cars, which by some estimates is worth more than $5 billion includes 600 Rolls Royce cars, over 300 Ferraris,134 Koenigeggs, 11 McLaren F1s, 6 Dauer Porsche 962 LMs and a number of luxurious Jaguars. He is famous for having some of the most luxuriously customized private jets like Boeing 747-400 and Airbus 340-200. Sultan’s current asset evaluation is about $20 billion and if the income keeps on growing at the current rate his eldest son might soon be the world’s first trillionaire. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah got married in 1965 to one of his cousins Pengiran Anak Saleha and became the new new ruler on October 5, 1967, and was coronated on August 1, 1968. Later on he got separated and got married to Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha. [Source: bornrich.com]

Sultan of Brunei and His Brother Prince Jefri

Prince Jefri’s inner circle refers to his brother, the Sultan of Brunei, a known as the "Big One," despite his small size. Mark Seal wrote in Vanity Fair, “The sultan’s biggest extravagance turned out to be his love for his youngest brother, Jefri, his constant companion in hedonism. They raced their Ferraris through the streets of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital, at midnight, sailed the oceans on their fleet of yachts (Jefri named one of his Tits, its tenders Nipple 1 and Nipple 2), and imported planeloads of polo ponies and Argentinean players to indulge their love for that game, which they sometimes played with Prince Charles. They snapped up real estate like Monopoly pieces—hundreds of far-flung properties, a collection of five-star hotels (the Dorchester, in London, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, in Paris, the New York Palace, and Hotel Bel-Air and the Beverly Hills Hotel, in Los Angeles), and an array of international companies (including Asprey, the London jeweler to the Queen, for which Jefri paid about $385 million in 1995, despite the fact that that was twice Asprey’s estimated market value or that Brunei’s royal family constituted a healthy portion of its business). [Source: Mark Seal,Vanity Fair, July 2011*=*]

“The brothers routinely traveled with 100-member entourages and emptied entire inventories of stores such as Armani and Versace, buying 100 suits of the same color at a time. When they partied, they indulged in just about everything forbidden in a Muslim country. Afforded four wives by Islamic law, they left their multiple spouses and scores of children in their palaces while they allegedly sent emissaries to comb the globe for the sexiest women they could find in order to create a harem the likes of which the world had never known.*=*

One person described the sultan and Prince Jefri as incredibly dim. “They don’t have a lot of thoughts.” [Source: Richard Behar, Fortune, February 1, 1999 <+>]

See Separate Article on Prince Jefri

Sultan of Brunei’s Palace and Properties

Istana Nurul Man is the lavish palace of the Sultan of Brunei and the world's largest residential palace. Competed in January 1984 and covering two million square feet, it cost $350 million and has domes gilded with 22-karat gold, 1,788 rooms, 257 bathrooms, gold-plated escalators, air-conditioned stables for the sultan’s Argentine polo ponies (he at one time had 200 of them), and an 800-car underground garage for the sultan's cars. It is larger than the Vatican. Situated on the banks of the Brunei River on the top of a hill overlooking the city, the palace is an enigmatic symbol of Brunei’s enduring monarchy and seat of the nation's government and a glittering example of Brunei’s majestic royal heritage. It is closed to the public except during the Haro Raya, when the Royal family greets the public. The palace also includes a banquet hall that can be expanded to accommodate up to 5,000 guests, a mosque accommodating 1,500 people and five swimming pools.

Sultan of Brunei's Las Vegas home: According to bornrich.com this estate with an official listing of $37.5 million with Zar Zanganeh (Vegas Fine Estates) was purportedly built for occupation by the Sultan of Brunei for his younger brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah. It is currently owned by the president of Consumer Credit Services, Inc., Eric Petersen, who had purchased it for $14 million in 2004. Location: This estate is located very close to the Las Vegas Strip. Being one of the biggest homes in Las Vegas, it has 17 bedroom suites with attached bathrooms. There is a master bedroom and a total of 36 bathrooms in the house. The parking lot has the capacity to hold 50 vehicles and the garage holds 11 cars. The large ballroom can accommodate a thousand people. [Source: bornrich.com ***]

The Las Vegas property sits on 11.2 acres of well-developed estate. This includes an international-sized swimming pool, swan pond and large gardens with an arcade of palms. The landscape is decorated with fountains, lawns, sitting areas and extensive, decorative lighting. The estate also has an equestrian center along with a polo track, a sushi bar and a discotheque. The house has been constituted by 8 separate buildings. Everything about the house - master bedroom, kitchen and master bathroom are extra large. The commercial kitchen is restaurant grade. Add to this the luxuries of a nightclub, a large ballroom, a separate men's and ladies' spa and salon! The master bedroom, themed with a large zebra-skin carpet, is about 4000 square feet in itself. The home has a total living space greater than 73,000 square feet. The neighborhood is home to the largest hotels, casinos, residential buildings and resorts in the world. Most of the Hollywood celebrities would definitely have paid it a visit some time or the other. ***

The St. John’s Lodge home in London has been estimated to value £110 million. Built about 200 years ago in 1812, the 'lodging' of the Sultan is one among the only two villas (the other being The Holme) from the Regent's Park conceived by John Nash. This residence is located on the Inner Circle in Regent's Park. Till the year 1965, this was part of the St Marylebone Metropolitan Borough in London, but today is a part of Westminster. The home is constituted by three connected buildings. Two of these buildings, known as the main house and second house are in fact occupied by guests and the service staff. The Sultan's 'room' is located in the separate private building. It is massive and measures about 3,500 sq ft in living area. The St.John's Lodge is surrounded by the largest and most beautiful gardens of London. It is open to public and presents a real slice of environmental heaven. Arts and crafts of the classical and revival eras, a meditation garden, a fountain, a Doric temple and massive stone portico decorate the gardens. The home has the most impressive and regal environs one could hope for - Regent's Park. Being one of the Royal Parks of London, its 166 acres are filled with a host of amenities and facilities for the public. ***

The Sultan of Brunei used to own a lavish mansion near the Sunset Boulevard area in the Beverley Hills, California. Valued at $38 million, this Spanish colonial styled mansion was built in 1927 and served as the temporary residence for the Sultan on the rare occasions when he used to visit California. The sprawling property was purchased in 1987 and the royal hired famous interior decorators Tim Morrison and Tom Proctor to renovate the home which received an extensive facelift. The Sultan’s former palatial estate covers almost two acres of ground. The main mansion is a two storied building spread over 14,000 square feet of living space and the living quarters consists of eight bedrooms, living room ,dining area, dressing room, library, modern gourmet kitchen and eleven bathrooms. The outdoor part of the estate features a covered porch, open patio and beautifully landscaped gardens. The cavernous garage can fit in 30 big cars at a time. The mansion offers great views of Los Angeles and the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. ***

The entire house is steeped in luxury and its grandiose interiors bear ample signs of its royal past. Most of the bedrooms have been equipped with stone fireplaces and expensive Malibu tiles lines the floors of most rooms. The house has been decorated using expensive antique furniture. An infinity edge swimming pool along with a cabana is situated in the villa’s outdoor area. Most of the bathrooms have been fitted with Jacuzzis and there is also an indoor spa. Some of the most iconic Hollywood celebrities of the likes of Madonna, Pamela Anderson, Janet Jackson and Janet Jackson own homes in the immediate neighborhood of the Sultan’s grand mansion. ***

Sultan of Brunei’s Jet Collection

The Sultan of Brunei owns his own private Boeing 747-400, Boeing 767-200 and Airbus A340-200. According to bornrich.com: The Sultan’s private jet Boeing 747-400 is no less than a palace itself. A living room, a bed room with details of gold and precious gold in the jet could only belong to a Sultan. The jet is also equipped with all the modern facilities and has a separate remote control desk. [Source: bornrich.com ***]

The Sultan owns Boeing 767 is a mid-size, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner. It is designed with deluxe room including a full and complete interior office. The "Airbus A340-200 seats up to 261 passengers in a three-class cabin layout have a range of 7,450 nautical miles (13,800 km). It is the only jet with wingspan measuring greater than the length of the fuselage. This was launched for long and thin routes, especially over water. ***

The sultan once ordered a 747 with several bedrooms and stalls so he could transport himself and his polo ponies back and forth between Britain and Brunei. Boeing was reportedly working a system of disposing the horse’s urine when the deal was canceled.

Brunei Sultan's Automotive Harem

Autozine.org reported: “Imagine how crazy a car enthusiast could be: owns a McLaren F1? A Dauer 962? A Mercedes CLK-GTR? These become nothing if compare with the Sultan of Brunei. His collection includes 8 McLaren F1s, 6 Dauer 962 LMs, the only right-hand-drive CLK-GTR in the world, a pair of Jaguar XJR-15, a Porsche 959, 3 Cizeta V16Ts, a Lamborghini Diablo Jota .... and 5,000 other premium cars. [Source: Autozine.org */*]

Strictly speaking, his majesty is not a die-hard car enthusiast, but his playboy younger brother Prince Jefri and his eldest son Prince Haakem are. They buy and play the supercars like toys, get bored very soon, then buy new ones and store the old ones in any of the 4 huge garages (more like a warehouse in terms of volume) for, perhaps, forever. Why did they buy so many McLaren and Dauer? Perhaps they like to share with their relatives. Perhaps their wives like to drive them for shopping. Perhaps they want to have a few spare cars when the normally used one is under servicing. Most likely, perhaps because money is nothing to his majesty. */*

“Apart from the aforementioned supercars, the Sultan has many custom-made cars. Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, AMG etc. specially developed cars for his majesty, because money is no object. For example, you can see a trio of Ferrari 456 GT's variants - a long wheelbase 4-door saloon version, a convertible and even an estate version (what a nonsense !) Yet this is just the least spectacular one. Some concept cars, such as Bentley Java and Pininfarina's Ferrari Mythos show car were exclusively developed into real running machines for the Sultan. */*

“In contrast to the motor show cars, Sultan also has many cars we have never seen and heard, for instance, the Ferrari FX. This is a supercar based on F512M but enclosed with an adventurous-looking body and a button-shift semi-automatic developed by Prodrive, much earlier than the F355 F1. Sultan has 6 such cars. Besides. His collection also includes a 542 hp, twin-turbo Rolls Royce, a Bentley incorporating Range Rover's 4x4 system called Dominator, 6 replicas for the '50s Mercedes 300SL based on today's 500SL but installed with AMG-enhanced 6.0 Published in. */*

“The Sultan's interest is also shown in motor racing. He has a private museum displaying all the Formula One championship-winning race cars since 1980, all are real cars bought from the teams. Because of this, Frank Williams was invited to visit the King. In the past 15 years, the Royal family has been the most important client to many prestige car specialists. Aston, for example, supplied 200-300 cars during these years. Rolls-Royce even regularly supplied 40-50 cars every year. They have mechanics staying there to serve exclusively the Royal family. You can count the cost of all these cars.... well, perhaps "countless" is the most likely answer. */*

“However, the situation has changed since the Asian economy crisis in 1998 and the fallout between Prince Jefri and the sultan. The Sultan not only sacked his brother he also commanded to terminate the supercar import, sent all mechanics away and locked the garages. However as Asia recovered from the crisis, recently I heard the Sultan is shopping supercars again.” */*

600 Mercedes, Bullet-Proof Rolls Royces and the World’s Largest Private Garage

According to bornrich.com: The Sultan of Brunei has almost 600 Mercedes, including one that is gold plated. One whole section of his hangar-size garage is dedicated for storing the world's most exclusive and rarest Mercs. Being the absolute Sultan of a country comes with its own benefits. His collection includes models which are not meant for public consumption, like the special S-class Touring model designed just for the Sultan and a yellow Mercedes Sprinter with a red interior. He also has 100s of 1996-1997 model Mercedes-Benz 500 sedans and 1995-97 500 SELs and SLs, all black. The Sultan got himself the only right hand drive Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR in the world. [Source: bornrich.com ***]

The Sultan has Ferraris which were just meant to be concept cars. However, when one has money to spend than any concept can take a physical form. His 2 fully operational Ferrari Mythos are just an example of that. His Ferrari 456 is one of the perfect mix of elegance and indulgence. He got himself a factory made four-door sedan and wagon version of the Italian stallion. His other Ferraris include names like Ferrari F40, Ferrari FX and both of the Ferrari 456 GT Sedans. He also has the Ferrari Testarossa F90, Ferrari F50 Bolide Tub by Pininfarina and Ferrari 550 Barchetta Speciale among others. ***

One cannot possibly even imagine a car collection without the elegance of BMWs. The Sultan also thinks the same way and therefore has a couple 100 of these beauties in his private collection. Going by the sheer numbers of Rolls-Royces he has, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that these are the favorite cars of Sultan. He has so much love for these high-performance and super-luxurious cars, that he keeps a Rolls-Royce in front of his palace with the engine running 24-7. Needless to add, all his cars are bullet-proof and feature state-of-the-art technology. ***

The biggest home for cars? Emperors and empires have existed throughout world history. But here is an emperor and an empire with a difference - a difference so huge that it would not have been even imagined had it not existed! It is not a coincidence that theThe Empire Hotel in Brunei is witness to the greatest empire of cars. A garage, the size of five aircraft hangars, holds within it a collection of 7000 of the world' finest cars with a combined estimated value of $5 billion! ***

It would be misleading to call this palace of cars as a garage but even if we were to call it so functionally, it is much more than that. It has separate wings to hold the different brands. Thus, there is a Mercedes wing, a Rolls Royce wing, a Lamborghini wing, a Jaguar wing, a BMW wing, a Ferrari wing, a Porsche wing, a Bentley wing and so on! Some of the cars housed here are the only ones of their kind on the face of the earth like thePorsche Carma and the right-hand drive Mercedes CLKGTR. Several concept cars like the Ferrari Mythos and Pininfarina-designed Jaguar XJ-220 also grace the 'garage'. ***

The cars also seem to share the royal life of the Sultan. They barely get out of the garage because of two reasons: 1) A car parked all the way at the back may need almost 1.5 hours to be brought out. 2) With a ratio of more than 100 cars per individual in the Sultan's family and court, a car gets to be used only thrice a year even probabilistically! ***

Michael Jackson and the Sultan of Brunei's Birthday in 1996

The Sultan of Brunei celebrated his 50th birthday in 1996 with a $25 million banquet for 3,000 people, including Michael Jackson and Prince Charles, in one hall of his 1,778-room palace. A London production company was hired to make a wide-screen, state of-the-art home video of the event. The capital was decorated with colored lights, flags and bunting. The birthday was shown on the Star Channel.

Jackson was said to be the sultans's favorite pop start. For the 50the birthday party Jackson was paid an estimated $15 to $20 million to give three free concerts at an amusement park in Bandar Seri Begawan. See Music

Describing the party, AP reported: The Sultan of Brunei "arrived in a black Rolls Royce. Cannons boomed. Getting out of the car, the sultan greeted Charles with a grin. Jackson wasn't seen. Later Prince Charles flew into the depths of the rain forest in one of the sultan’s helicopters to visit a nature project before returning to the banquet...Charles...presented the sultan with a walking stick and an ornamental silver box with a water color painting inlaid into the lid he painted himself."

Sultan of Brunei's Birthday in 2006

Describing the Sultan of Brunei’s 60th birthday celebration in 2006, Nick Meo wrote in The Times, “The shriek of bagpipes swirled through the tropical air. Giant portraits of his majesty, turbaned and bemedaled, stared down from the banks and department stores. As the armed forces paraded before Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, tiny, oil-rich Brunei celebrated with the bash of the decade. People came by speedboat and BMW from across this minuscule realm of muddy rivers, mangrove swamps and manicured golf courses. With assembled dignitaries, the sultan swept up to the military parade in a sports stadium in the center of the capital in a fleet of Rolls-Royces and Mercedes limousines. [Source: Nick Meo, The Times, July 16, 2006 ==]

“Streets were festooned with colored lights and bunting, and cannon roared out in salute. The government put no price tag on the sumptuous celebration. Dignitaries and Asian heads of state attended Saturday's investiture, state banquet and fireworks display in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital -- a collection of air-conditioned shopping malls, sumptuous hotels and marble mosques with diamond-studded welcome signs. Almost every building was draped with huge posters of the revered monarch, one of Asia's last absolute rulers and one of the world's richest men, currently worth $20 billion, according to Forbes magazine. ==

“Hassanal's lifestyle is breathtaking. He lives in the world's biggest palace, with 1,788 rooms, where the banquet for 10,000 guests, followed by a 20-minute fireworks show, rounded out Saturday's daylong party. He also owns hundreds of polo ponies, a fleet of Rolls-Royces and several aircraft. ==

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vanity Fair magazine, Brunei Tourism, Prime Minister's Office, Brunei Darussalam, Government of Brunei Darussalam, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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