Asian start-ups gain as Facebook's Saverin looks East

Far from the Wall Street limelight, Facebook's co-founder Eduardo Saverin is keeping a low profile in Singapore, investing his wealth in tech start-ups while enjoying a life of luxury.

The Brazilian, who set up Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and two other friends at Harvard in 2004, has given up his dual US citizenship and plans to settle in Singapore, where he drives a Bentley and frequents exclusive clubs.

As documented in the Oscar-winning film "The Social Network", the 30-year-old provided the business acumen and Zuckerberg the software expertise when they created what became the world's most popular website.

The friends had a spectacular falling out when Saverin's stake in the company was heavily diluted. But his remaining stake is enough to give a hefty boost to his riches when Facebook lists on the stock market on Friday.

Critics say that Saverin renounced his US passport to escape paying capital gains tax on his fortune, estimated at $3.4 billion by the website "Who Owns Facebook?", which says he retains a 4.0 percent stake.

Such a fortune would make the media-shy Saverin one of the wealthiest individuals in Singapore, Southeast Asia's technological and financial hub where he can enjoy a degree of privacy impossible in the United States.

In a rare interview with the New York Times, he insisted: "This had nothing to do with taxes. I was born in Brazil, I was an American citizen for about 10 years. I thought of myself as a global citizen."

His New York-based spokesman Tom Goodman declined to state Saverin's exact Facebook stake and also insisted that tax concerns were not the reason for his decision to become a long-term resident in Singapore.

"He believes that Singapore is at the centre of the 'it' zone for growth, especially in relation to consumer technology, with an Internet and mobile base that is fast expanding and growing in dominance worldwide," Goodman told AFP.

"He also plans to invest in Brazilian and global companies that have strong interests in entering the Asian markets," he said.

Singapore does not have a capital gains tax. The city-state's highest earners are taxed at 20 percent, much lower than the top marginal rate of 35 percent levied for federal income tax in the United States.

Saverin, whose blessings and money are avidly sought by Singapore's technology entrepreneurs, rarely appears at public events.

People who have met Saverin say he is private and unassuming, but approachable.

He has been photographed in the company of attractive women including beauty queen Rachel Kum, Singapore's representative in the Miss Universe contest in 2009.

In the New York Times interview, Saverin denied reports that he was living a playboy lifestyle in Singapore.

"It's a misperception, especially the playboy," he said. "I do have a Bentley. I do go out. I'd rather not go into personal details.

"I'm clearly very busy," he added, with "friends, family, existing investments".

Singapore-based web start-up Perx is one of several companies that have benefited from Saverin's attention.

According to its co-founder Andrew Roth, Saverin invested in the company last year and advised on the development of its iPhone app -- a virtual loyalty card that rewards repeat customers at restaurants, shops and other establishments.

It now has 40,000 registered users in Singapore.

"He is increasingly getting more involved on the product side, and with his world view and knowledge about the region, he has offered us valuable feedback on how to improve," Roth told AFP.

Anideo, a Singapore-based company best known for its video-stream application Denso, is another of Saverin's Asian ventures.

Saverin mixes with young Singaporeans and expatriates.

"He hobnobs more with the investors," said Terence Lee, an editor at a local technology website who has spotted Saverin at start-up events.

"I think anyone can go up to him to say hi."

Saverin joins other rich and famous people who have made Singapore their home, benefiting from its low taxes, safe environment and paparazzi-free culture.

In 2011, Chinese action flick superstar Jet Li confirmed that he had taken up Singaporean citizenship. Chinese actress Gong Li, star of "Farewell My Concubine", also became a citizen in 2008.

Jim Rogers, a billionaire US financier, has settled in Singapore so that his children can learn Mandarin, which is widely spoken along with English in the predominantly ethnic-Chinese island.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February
    ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February

    Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) sustains its strong sales in its February performance. Toyota’s strong performance last month was due to the  high demand of the Vios, with sales of 2,012 units and of course the rest of Toyota’s line up such as the Fortuner, Innova, Wigo, Hilux, Avanza and Corolla Altis. Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, recorded 60 units last month. …

  • No apology, but Noy seeks understanding
    No apology, but Noy seeks understanding

    There was no apology, but President Aquino yesterday expressed regret, took “full responsibility” and appealed to the nation for “deepest understanding” for the Jan. 25 Mamasapano raid in which dozens died, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos. “To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” Aquino said in a speech before the 246 new graduates of …

  • MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician
    MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician

    Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is grateful for Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s praise and presidential endorsement, but says he is not a politician. In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the search for The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines 2015 Wednesday night, Pangilinan dismissed the idea of running for president in the 2016 elections. “I’m not a politician, I’m just an ordinary business person,” he added. Santiago endorsed Pangilinan as a presidential candidate …

  • No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP
    No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not suspending its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, New People’s Army (NPA) and other lawless groups during the Holy Week, an official said yesterday. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the AFP leadership is leaving it up to area and division commanders whether to raise the alert status in preparation for the Holy Week. Those deployed in areas where there are ongoing law enforcement operations against terrorist groups …

  • Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP
    Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP

    The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate a human rights lawyer’s claim of harassment, including surveillance, by several military officers. In a 22-page decision, the former Special Sixth Division of the appellate court granted the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data of Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon. The CA ordered the AFP to identify the officers behind the surveillance and file charges against them. The CA ruling said …

  • Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP
    Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP

    President Aquino vowed yesterday to dismantle the culture of factionalism or the bata-bata system within the Philippine National Police as he continued the search for the next PNP chief. Speaking at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) commencement exercises here, the President said the country needed solidarity among leaders and members of the police force so that the policemen would be effective protectors of Filipinos. “Our challenge to the next chief of our national police force: …

  • Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl
    Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl

    Retire and invest in real estate in the Philippines, especially now that the country has made it to the top 10 retirement destinations in the world. This is the message being spread by the Philippine embassy in Washington, with Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. leading the refrain in meetings with various Filipino-American communities in the US. In his talks, Cuisia said that an affordable cost of living as well as warm climate and people are just some of the things that make the Philippines a top …

  • PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson
    PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson

    The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options