The song, sung by jazz vocalist Michael Franks, was heard softly. The tender voice was finally overwhelmed by the noisy chat from around 600 invitees filling all seats in the round table formation of the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Millennia Hotel, Singapore. On Saturday evening two weeks ago, they attended the wedding party of tycoon Prajogo Pangestu’s daughter, Nancy, who married a Frenchman, Nicolas Tabardel.
The glamour could only be matched by the diamond wedding celebration of Liem Sioe Liong or Sudono Salim. Born in Fukien, China, almost 92 years ago, this man founded the Salim Group business empire and once ranked as Indonesia’s wealthiest magnate for decades. Om (uncle) Liem marked his 60th wedding anniversary at the Shangri-La Island Ballroom, Shangri-La Hotel, in the posh area of Orchard Road, Singapore, April 2004.
The party’s attractions were not limited to nostalgic songs, crystals, scented flowers and black caviar from the Caspian Sea, but also the glittering object hanging around the neck of Prajogo’s wife, Herlina Tjandinegara. Everybody could notice the shining white pendant that “disturbed” one’s eyesight. It turned out to be a super-rare diamond weighing 100 carats, the size of an adult’s big toe, one of the world’s biggest precious stones reportedly bought in 1990 in America. “It’s indeed my investment,” said Prajogo. The price? The tycoon just smiled. But some estimated it at “only” US$35 million or around Rp.300 billion.
It’s no exaggeration if the event was whispered to be the tycoon’s largest ever feast at the start of the Year of the Rat. The guests present spoke for themselves. At the center table, opposite to that of the host, were Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, Aburizal “Ical” Bakrie, Minister of Trade Mari E. Pangestu and Minister of Forestry M.S. Ka’ban. Along with former State Enterprises Minister Tanri Abeng, they flanked Madame Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek Holdings and also wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Hundreds of leading entrepreneurs were also there. Two top conglomerate aces in the New Order period, Sudwikatmono and Ibrahim Risjad, who along with Liem Sioe Liong and Djuhar Sutanto were dubbed “The Gang of Four,” were around throughout the event. Sadly, Om Liem canceled his attendance. “It’s because of bad flu,” said a committee member. Om Liem, who was the country’s most affluent figure for decades, was represented by his son, Anthony Salim, CEO of the Salim Grup. Joining the veteran magnates was William Soeryadjaya, who is getting advanced in age and used a wheelchair.
A tycoon whispered that in total value, this was a mega party of moguls with assets worth US$1 trillion — over Rp9,000 trillion if converted into rupiah! The amount is nearly the equivalent of 12 times the State Budget, or around 3,000 times the genuine income of the richest area in Indonesia, Kutai Kertanegara regency. Tanri Abeng, Bakrie Brothers’ former CEO, nodded in agreement. Therefore, “Well, if something happens here, we’ll be in trouble,” laughed Tanri.
Let’s count up. Temasek, Singapore’s investment company, possesses at least US$100 billion in assets (but another version calculates that its assets value is actually five times as much). It is the proprietor of Singapore Airlines and operates US$11 billion of its funds in Jakarta, including the purchases of shares of Bank Danamon and Bank Internasional Indonesia. Ho Ching, 54, was continuously approached by and talking in murmurs with Tanri, Anthony, and Sofjan Wanandi, Gemala Group’s principal.
Ical should not be overlooked. He arrived aboard his private jet. Just assume that the Coordinating Minister, Bakrie Group head, and the former indigenous big boss whose name had a leading position last year, is the richest man in this republic. Still there appeared Anthony, Sukanto Tanoto (Indonesia’s richest tycoon according to Forbes Asia two years ago), Budi Hartono and hundreds of other big names that cannot be mentioned here.
The magnates were sort of “drowning” Singapore. Take a look at the lobbies of Ritz-Carlton, Grand Hyatt, Mandarin, also Shangri-La, packed by the chatting super-rich from Jakarta. Prajogo, besides preparing business class tickets, also provided about 350 star-rated hotel rooms for invitees. They were specially invited to a cocktail party in the evening before the reception and blessing, served with top-class black caviar while savoring champagne and vodka to the tune of Michael Franks, you’re so brave to expose… all those… popsicle toes.…
My good friend, Indcoup sent me the above in an email. Unfortunately he didn't include the URL, so I don't know the source. Regular readers will know what my true feelings are about this gathering and certain of the attendees. I'd like to know what you think.