Flamboyant entrepreneur

ALTHOUGH Datuk Syed Mohd Yusof Syed Tahir is not a name that often appears in the business pages of newspapers, he is no stranger to many in the corporate circles. 

Flamboyant and with his striking pair of spectacles , Syed Yusof, who is also called Jojo by his friends, made his name and fortune in property and the entertainment industry. 

Datuk Syed Mohd Yusof Syed Tahir

Famous for bringing in international artistes such as Michael Jackson, Kenny G, Ricky Martin and Linkin Park to Malaysia, Syed Yusof is viewed as an opposite persona to the more conservative Tan Sri Tan Teong Hean. 

His relationship with Tan goes back to the 1970s, but his friendship with the Sultan of Selangor stretches back to when they were children. 

The Sultan's father and Syed Yusof’s parents knew each other and via family visits, the two became friends. Today, Syed Yusof is often referred to as the “confidant’’ and business partner of the Sultan. Given that relationship, he has also chosen not to be affiliated with any political party, including Umno.  

Syed Yusof is the third child of the late Tun Dr Syed Nasir Ismail, Malaysia’s first Parliamentary Speaker. Syed Yusof, 58, is married and has three children. 

Born in 1947, he graduated with an economics degree from the University of Tasmania in Australia.  

He began his career with Petroliam Nasional Bhd in 1976. Over the years, he moved up the ranks and became the head of the northern region, taking charge of the four northern states. 

After eight years, he decided to move on, realising that working for organisations was no longer his cup of tea. 

Eager for a challenge, he became an entrepreneur. 

Property development was something Syed Yusof dabbled in and his vehicle early on was Primavista Development Sdn Bhd. The company helped revive Pandan Cahaya, an abandoned project in Selangor, comprising 122 units of four-storey shops, apartments, 16 terraced factories and 240 low-cost flats. Primavista’s unit Rampai Tema Sdn Bhd was also involved in the development of 300 medium-cost condominium units.  

In the early 1990s, another of his companies, Charterfied Corp Sdn Bhd, was involved in the development of site support facilities for the KL International Airport. Today, the site for the support facilities houses the Concorde Inn Sepang. 

Partnering the Sultan, the duo has a business empire that spans from owning a stake in Southern Bank Bhd (SBB) to entertainment, and owning and managing hotels and properties. 

He and the Sultan own six hotels in the country under the Concorde Hotels & Resorts and Casa Del Mar banner (in Langkawi). Also under their ambit are the Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood and the franchise for the Harley-Davidson bikes. 

Syed Yusof has many more businesses in Jojo Entertainment, Sovereign Enterprise Sdn Bhd, De Best Sdn Bhd (the management company that operates Saloma Theatre Restaurant) to Sierra Damansara Sdn Bhd. 

Enjoying local cuisine, particularly Malay food, Syed Yusof still visits the Hard Rock Café for a meal and although not as often as they have done in the past, he still shares a meal with the Sultan at the restaurant. 

To someone meeting Syed Yusof for the first time, he may come across as aloof but those close to him say he is very “approachable and friendly’’ and this was evident when he appeared affable to journalists who came up to him at the recent Bank Negara’s open house. 

Syed Yusof has a passion for cars, bikes (only Harley-Davidson) and beautiful things that captivate the rich and famous.  

His garage will be the envy of many, but what will stand out are his Rolls Royce and Maserati. 

Recently, the Sultan and him teamed up with hotel magnate Ong Beng Seng and Singapore’s Capital Land Ltd to build a US$265mil Four Seasons hotel and apartment complex in Kuala Lumpur via Venus Assets Sdn Bhd. Syed Yusof is the chairman of Venus. 

Syed Yusof rarely grants interviews to the media and has chosen to keep a low profile, especially in the SBB issue.  

With so much speculation in the market, perhaps, it is timely for his story to be told and the pieces of the jigsaw be put together. 

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