Kuok Meng Ru's love of blues music began when his olderbrother introduced him to Eric Clapton. Now aged 28, theyoung Kuok, son of Singaporean palm oil billionaire KuokKhoon Hong, founded BandLab Technologies a socialnetwork that lets musicians collaborate online with the aimof creating his own music empire independent of his family'swealth. American Gus Wenner, the 26-year-old heir apparentat Wenner Media, the business that owns rock magazineRolling Stone, had a similar vision. When they met through amutual friend, they hit it off.
The result was a deal that led toKuok acquiring a 49% stake in Rolling Stone this week themagazine's first outside investor in its 49-year history. As thehead of Rolling Stone International, Kuok's task of selling themagazine to an Asian audience weaned on Korean, Chineseand other local music scenes won't be easy, says Yoolim Leeon Bloomberg.com. Family money helped get his BandLabventure off the ground, but he has to prove his mettle, andRolling Stone is just the start. As his mother never tired oftelling him, "Much has been given, much will be expected."
Talking business with a diamond geezer
"I knew I had to buy a diamond to make a lady marry me", but I never dreamt of buying a mine, the South African boss of Petra Diamonds, Johan Dippenaar, tells The Daily Telegraph. That was until Dippenaar, an accountant, helped a client to buy a mine. Dippenaar later acquired the mine after his client decided to sell up and went on to buy more, founding Crown Diamonds in 1990. Crown merged with Petra in 2005 and today Petra is the world's sixth biggest diamond producer with 3.7 million carats, up from 175,000 a decade ago.
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Yet, compared to De Beers, Petra is a relative minnow and snaps up the old mines its larger rival no longer wants. "These mines were the mainstay of the world diamond market," says Dippenaar. "We more or less survived on these old caves." Nor does Dippenaar chase the large "exceptional diamonds" though his firm's Cullinan Dream, a 24.18-carat intense blue diamond, sold for $25.4m earlier this year.
"We try to not bank on those things," he says, preferring to run his business on the "bread and butter" stones. To excavate a 50-carat diamond, you have to move 100 tonnes of rock, he says. After 26 years in the business, he still finds such huge gems "fascinating".
Entrepreneurship?"I love it and I hate it"
Diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-immune disease that fuses vertebrae together, Chris Puttnam was forced to jack in his double-glazing business of 20 years. When colitis, an associated condition, left him without his spleen and unable to walk far, Puttnam turned to his hobby and set up cycling clothing brand Velobici, based in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, he tells theThe Times.
His father, who had owned a textile factory, took some convincing that this was a sensible business venture. "Don't be ridiculous," he told his son, "you've seen what I went through." Puttnam admits he had a point. "I think I was still high on steroids after my illness [when I set up Velobici], because if I knew then what I know now, there's no way I could do it. I love it and I hate it." But he was used to working for himself, so he plugged on, because "if you're that way, you do what it takes to make it work".
It's just as well that he did. Velobici teamed up with Italian bike maker Kyklos, founded by 2007 Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca, putting forward design ideas for a new bike that led to the Continental. This fashionable £5,000 bike has already led to increased export sales and it's proved popular at home too. A customer visited the shop one day to see the bike only to leave disappointed when Puttnam was out riding it. "How you've survived this long," his business partner mused, "I will never know".
The MoneyWeek audit: Arnold Palmer
American golfing legend Arnold Daniel Palmer (above) was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, on 10 September 1929. He died last Sunday aged 87 having won the Open twice, the Masters four times and the US open once between 1958 and 1964, as well as having presided over a vast business empire throughout his long career. He is also remembered for his charity work and as a keen pilot, setting a round-the-world record in 1976.
Palmer started out at the tender age of three, swinging a three-iron with a sawn-off shaft under the tutelage of his father. Following the death of a school friend in a car accident, Palmer left college and spent three years in the Coast Guard, before embarking on a short-lived career as a salesman in Cleveland, Ohio.
What was his big break?
In 1954, Palmer won the United States Amateur at the Country Club in Detroit the same year he met and proposed to his wife, Winnie, after three days. Palmer turned professional and won the Canadian Open the next year. But it was his handsome looks and charisma that earned him a legion of fans known as "Arnie's Army".
A gift for the television age, "Palmer took a monochrome game and splashed it with colour", says Derek Lawrenson in the FT. "He did not so much navigate a course as attack it", adds Dave Anderson in The New York Times. "If his swing was not classic, it was ferocious: he seemed to throw all 185 pounds of his muscular five-foot-ten body at the ball. If he did not win, he at least lost with flair."
How much did he earn?
But Palmer won often enough to become the first golfer to win $1m. He teamed up with Cleveland lawyer Mark McCormack to establish the IMG sports agency and watched his endorsement earnings jump from $6,000 to $500,000 in two years. He created Arnold Palmer Enterprises and became the face of United Airlines to Rolex watches and made golf equipment and clothing, paving the way for sports personalities to follow in his footsteps.
Palmer also owned two country clubs, designed around 300 golf courses and lent his name to a popular drink made from ice tea and lemonade. Sports network ESPN put his wealth at $675m. No doubt his approach to business was influenced by his attitude to golf. "You can make mistakes when you're being conservative", he once said. "So why not go for the hole?"
Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.
Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.
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