I finally met up with a friend I've known for more than 20 years for coffee yesterday. When I first knew him, he was about 30 years old, a young and smart entrepreneur with not alot of money but great business acumen. Though he was charming and always had an eye for sweet young things, he was always very focused on building his business. Eventually he married a doctor who is now my friend.
In 20 years, he built such an empire, his company is listed on the main board and he has amassed great wealth. I've known him from his humble days and I'm never the type to envy the rich. They worked hard to get to where they are today. Maybe they're smarter and luckier than most people but really, money don't fall on people's lap just like that.
During the earlier days, he traveled to forsaken places like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to explore business opportunities. Then he expanded to Siberia followed by North Africa. Because of his industrious and adventurous nature, he went to places where people feared to tread and found alot of opportunities.
Well, if you think the rich don't have any problems, then you're wrong. As we sat having coffee, he was rattling on and on about his recent misadventures. Huge numbers were flying over my head but they go in one ear and exit from the other. Life is better that way.
Anyway, for those interested in hearing about what goes on in the life of the rich and famous, here are some nuggets I managed to retain in my brain from yesterday's conversations.
"Can you believe how unlucky I was Ting? My Ferrari was stolen and my boat sank and both were not insured. I lost half a million dollars just like that!"
Apparently he sold all his houses in Australia and parked both luxury vehicles at his friend's place. The car was stolen while someone was test driving it and well, his boat sank.
That's not all. He just sold his house in the prime district in Singapore for S$10m instead of $14m (US$10m) all because his contractor was so slow in refurbishing his new house (a bigger one in a better district), the property market crashed. If he had sold it 6 months earlier, he would have gained $4m more. "Then again, I could have invested that $4m in shares and lost it anyway." he mused.
Apparently he hasn't been spared from Lehman Brother's saga either. He lost $4m in investments. His company shares fell from 30 cents to a low of 2.5 cents today. His worth had plummeted like a meteorite. It's hard to tell if he's really still ok with all that bragging.
Everything about him is larger than life. He's a big guy with a big smile and a wide girth. He lives in a sprawling house with a huge-ass yard with a water fountain that extends from inside to outside. He has a gym and a swimming pool which his dogs love to frolick in. He probably has a big garage for his Maserati and fleet of cars too. (I didn't ask)
When we talked about pets, even his must be bigger than everyone elses. He has 4 big dogs including 2 giant schnauzers imported from S.Africa and some exotic macaws in his aviary. The pooches have their own treadmills in case of rainy days. His birds are so colourful and attractive (as I would imagine most pet birds are...)
I sat there wondering what this catching up exercise was all about. Maybe his friends are so tired of hearing about his wonderful dogs, birds, houses, cars and fishing trips, he had to dig deeper into his little black book to find unsuspecting old friends like me who's willing to listen to him? Maybe he's in trouble? Who knows? But whatever it is, I said I had to go (back to my own real world with my little dog, two sons and humble home).
TaTa. And I watched him walk all alone and forlorn to his flashy white sports car. Is he really happy?