Jay Low: The Public Face of 1MDB

Jho Low, mit den Schwestern Paris und Nikki Hilton

One of the most public faces of the 1MDB scandal which has felled BSI Bank and entangled a handful of others is Jho Low, a 34-year-old Malaysian who first burst onto the scene partying with Paris Hilton.

But how did the baby-faced, chubby businessman who reportedly told his party pals to call him «Jay Low» come into millions early in life?

Low, reportedly being investigated for his financial dealings in the U.S. and abroad, has accumulated an impressive resume in a short career. Born to a family worth a reported $1.8 billion, Low attended Harrow School in the U.K., which also brought forth Winston Churchill, Lord Byron and Benedict Cumberbatch, before studying economics at Wharton.

The Typical Client For a Swiss Bank

At first glance Low, based in Hong Kong, is exactly the type of client that Swiss banks would be hunting for in newer, buzzing markets like Asia: well-connected, educated in the U.K. and the U.S., independently wealthy and eager to do business through his private equity and advisory firm set up in 2009.

His connections reportedly stretch beyond Asia to the Middle East, where he has done at least one real estate deal with a partner in Kuwait. Behind the scenes however, Low reportedly helped set up 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, though the investment fund which is now under the scrutiny of regulators doesn’t appear among the numerous professional engagements on Low’s LinkedIn page.

Upscale Lingerie Line

Those include roles at an upscale lingerie line and a luxury hotel and resort group alongside Low’s charitable work. Investigators are now probing more than $6 billion that they believe was siphoned away from 1MDB between 2009 and last year through a series of complex transactions and structures via multiple financial centers including Singapore and Zurich, though 1MDB has said that all its investments are accounted for and promised to aid any probes.

Nevertheless, the probe has felled BSI Bank’s Singapore office, which the regulator ordered shut, as well as snagging high-profile banker Goldman Sachs rainmaker Tim Leissner.

Only a Scapegoat

Low is reportedly linked to transactions worth hundreds of millions for 1MDB, but accumulated considerable wealth of his own along the way, in part by tapping into connections in the Middle East made during his student days.

In interviews with «Euromoney» and the «South China Morning Post», Low has denied accusations of wrong-doing and insisted he was being made a scapegoat.

More recently, Low’s appearances have been less ostentatious: he sold a $35 million Jean-Michael Basquiat painting in a private sale brokered by Sotheby's as well as a stake in Manhattan’s Park Lake Hotel, perhaps in a sign that his legal troubles are taking a hefty financial toll.

Compare my salary

Compare my salary

Feeling Underpaid? Benchmark your salary by job title, company and location. Find out where you stand in minutes.

compare my salary


Newsletter-SymbolFree Subscription

Subscribe to our free newsletter and receive daily email alerts from the finews editorial team with a list of the top featured articles.

Share with us

Do you have any market intelligence to share with finews.asia – email us on info@finews.asia – All communication is completely confidential and strictly anonymous.