BRUNEI OR BUST
The Sultan of Brunei: so rich, his title has become a metaphor for wealth and opulence. But when it comes to cash flow, rather than pure wealth—and when it comes to pure hedonism rather than opulence—perhaps the current Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, isn’t quite the metaphor we’re after. Instead, we need to turn to his brother, Prince Jefri, who (if statistics are to believed) has personally spent more money than any human being in history.
It may be Jefri’s brother who sits on the Bruneian throne, but it’s Jefri who has arguably reaped the most spoils from his family’s oil-based riches. How do we know all that? Well, after the 1997 financial crisis that struck the economies east Asia, Sultan Hassanal ordered an audit of the Brunei Investment Agency, the company of which his brother Jefri was currently chairman; the accountants’ report resulted in Jefri facing legal proceedings relating to the embezzlement of almost $15 billion.
Jefri denied the charges, but in return for clemency agreed to turn over all of his personal holdings to the Brunei government. This—alongside various other legal troubles that have dogged the prince in the years since—threw his personal finances into the spotlight, and made public some of his extraordinary purchases.
According to various financial reports, court statements and newspaper articles, Jefri’s past purchases include a fleet of more than 2,000 luxury cars; 600 properties around the globe (including the New York Palace Hotel and Paris’ Plaza Athénée); an enormous private art collection, mostly housed in a vault in Switzerland; a fleet of nine private aircraft; and five luxury yachts (including one which the notoriously libidinous prince opted to christen Tits).
Not only that, but in 1995 Jefri purchased Asprey (Queen Elizabeth II’s prestigious London jewellery house) for more than $380 million, more than twice its market value. When one of his sons wanted to learn to play American football, Jefri paid NFL star Joe Montana a seven-figure sum to fly to Brunei and give the young prince a private lesson. And when the same prince turned 18, his father chose not to give him a PlayStation 2 as a birthday present, but $1 billion cash.
It’s better that way though, isn’t it? Because then you can just go and buy whatever you want.