NYT journalist tells of unravelling Jho Low’s luxury condo purchases in New York


(The Malaysian Insider) – The New York Times (NYT) journalist who co-wrote the story about the ownership of high-end properties in the United States by Malaysian investor Jho Low, told a local radio station the story was born simply out of the need to uncover the reason behind rising real estate prices in New York.

Noting that prices for luxury properties in cities like Los Angeles, Miami and New York were rising, Louise Story told business radio station BFM how she and her colleague, Stephanie Saul, had heard people say that a lot of units in high-end developments were purchased by foreigners.

In her February 9 article “Well connected at home, young Malaysian has an appetite for New York”, it described how Low, whose full name is Low Taek Jho, in 2010, began by making some very expensive real estate deals in the US, using shell companies.

Story had set out to uncover who these foreign buyers were, only to find that there were few details.

“Today, more than half of the buying in New York and nearly half of the buying across the country in high-end property are purchased by shell companies, which are corporate entities set up just for the purpose of buying real estate.

“What they do is generally keep the owner secret, so no one really knows who the buyers of the properties are,” she told BFM radio in an interview on the The Evening Edition show today.

Story said she wanted to lift the veil on these shell companies and started looking at a handful of buildings in New York City, including the famous Plaza Hotel which had been converted into condominium units.

“We ended up deciding to zero in on one complex called the Time Warner Center which is next to Central Park in Manhattan,” Story said of her investigation that started in the middle of 2013.

The journalists – methodically, unit by unit – started to crack through the shell companies and found that some units had multiple layers of ownership.

“Some of them took weeks just to uncover one (owner) because it was one shell that was owned by another shell which was owned by another shell which is owned by a trust which is owned by another company before you even got to a person’s name behind it.

“And behind one of these units, we ended up getting to a person named Jho Low,” she told radio presenter Umapagan Ampikaipakan in the interview.