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King Vajiralongkorn and Different Richest Royals in Asia

King Vajiralongkorn and Different Richest Royals in Asia

Wealth and royalty go hand-in-hand. It has been true for centuries and will, possibly, remain true till the concept of monarchy remains anywhere in the world. Some, like the European royals, are known for their ostentatious display of wealth. Others, like the kings and other royals in Asia, do not usually engage in pomp and show despite being among the richest people on Earth.

Monarchy is an age-old concept of governance. Even though much of the world has moved to democracy, monarchy continues in several economically prosperous nations. There are two principal types of monarchy in modern times: absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy. In the former, the monarch has absolute power over the executive, legislature and judiciary in the country they rule. In the latter, the monarch is just a symbolic head of the state with little to no authority over the domains.

Most Asian monarchies, particularly in the Middle East, are of the absolute type. But it is also in these monarchies that some of the richest royals in Asia exist. Though the monarch in absolute monarchies is the Head of the State, exceptions are Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where a system of sub-national monarchy exists.

In this type of monarchy, there is more than one ruler within a country and one of those rulers is picked as the Head of the State. For instance, Sultan Ibrahim of Johor was sworn in as the 17th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia in January 2024. Malaysia, however, is a constitutional monarchy where the monarch is a symbolic figurehead whereas the UAE is an absolute monarchy.

Irrespective of what type of monarchy they head, most of the richest kings in Asia are billionaires by net worth. Their luxurious lifestyle and asset composition include everything from palaces to private jets.

From Thailand to Jordan: The richest kings in Asia

King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand

Richest royals in Asia
The coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn as Rama X. (Image credit: Tris_T7/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: Around USD 40 to USD 43 billion

The King of Thailand, formally known by his regnal name Rama X, succeeded his immensely popular father, the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, to the throne in 2016 following the latter’s death. Coronated three years later in 2019, he inherited much of what his father held, becoming the richest of all kings not only in Asia but also the world.

The prime source of revenue for all Thai monarchs is a quasi-governmental agency known as the Crown Property Bureau (CPB). The CPB held much of the wealth in the name of the monarch and was exempt from taxation due to its service to the Crown through its revenue. Technically, therefore, the ‘net worth’ of the Thai monarch was actually the net worth of the Crown (the institution) and not the monarch, somewhat similar to the arrangement in the British monarchy.

However, according to Fortune, King Vajiralongkorn took control of the CPB in 2018. This effectively ended the distinction of ownership between the Crown and the monarch.

Real estate is the biggest component of his assets. Fortune says that around USD 30 billion of the property holdings are in Bangkok alone. He reportedly owns at least 65.6 sq km of land across Thailand. There are more than 40,000 rental contracts spread throughout the country which bring in revenue through hotels, government buildings and malls such as Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery and Siam Center that stand on these lands.

According to Fortune, he owns a 23 per cent stake in Siam Commercial Bank, which is Thailand’s second-largest bank, and 33 per cent of Siam Cement Group, the country’s largest industrial conglomerate. The worth of his shares comes to around USD 9 billion.

Other reports suggest that King Vajiralongkorn owns a huge collection of diamonds and gemstones. He possesses close to 38 aircraft, including those made by Boeing and Airbus. His fleet of cars includes 300 luxury vehicles. He also reportedly has a fleet of over 50 boats, which are embellished with gold carvings.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei

Richest Kings in Asia
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah shares a laugh with US President Barack Obama. (Image credit: Pete Souza – The White House/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: USD 28-30 billion

The Sultan of Brunei is one of the richest kings in Asia. The only absolute monarchy in Asia outside of the Middle East, Brunei’s rich oil is the prime source of wealth for its citizens as well as the royal family.

The Sultan is known for leading one of the most luxurious lifestyles for any royal. Reports suggest that he owns around 7,000 cars, of which around 600 are Rolls-Royces and over 400 are Ferraris. One of his Rolls-Royces is believed to be coated in gold.

Gold is also believed to be the material the sinks and the door handles in his palace are made of. As for the palace, Istana Nurul Iman, it is an architectural gem. Around four times the size of the Palace of Versailles, it has 1,788 rooms and 257 bathrooms. The Guinness Book of Records identifies it as the world’s largest residential palace.

Khuan Chew, the designer of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, created the ostentatious interiors of the palace featuring sinuous wooden ceilings, crystal teardrops and glass ceilings of the grand banquet hall. Even the Sultan’s 200-odd polo ponies enjoy their lives in air-conditioned stables in the palace. The palace cost around USD 1.4 billion at the time of its completion in 1984.

There is a water taxi cruise which lets people see the palace on most days from the outside. It is open to the public only during the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri festivities at the end of Ramadan.

When he is travelling by air, the Sultan has the option of taking his own Boeing 747-400, Boeing 767-200 and Airbus A340-200 jets. The Boeing 747-400 is also believed to be embellished in gold on the inside and cost around USD 400 million. And when he needs a haircut, the Sultan, according to The Times, flies down his favourite barber from the Dorchester Hotel in London’s Mayfair in first class to his country. The barber is reportedly paid USD 20,000 in cash.

One of his sons, Prince Abdul Mateen, is also counted among the richest royals in Asia.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia

King Salman
King Salman of Saudi Arabia with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Image credit: BY 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: More than USD 20 billion

As the ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Salman is an extremely important figure in the Islamic world as he is, by virtue of his royal position, also the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques — Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina.

King Salman is the 25th son of King Abdulaziz and, at the age of 88, the oldest living monarch. Like much of the Middle Eastern world, the prime source of his fortune comes from the oil wealth of his country. His exact possessions are not known. But the fact is that the Saudi royal family, which has around 15,000 members, is the world’s richest, though only around 2,000 actually control the wealth.

All of them belong to the House of Saud, the dynasty that founded and has ruled modern Saudi Arabia since the 18th century. The House of Saud is believed to be worth USD 1.4 trillion, far more than the GDP of most countries in the world and around 16 times the total net worth of the British royal family.

Several members of the family own private jets, palaces, boats and estates around the world. Among the possessions of the family is Prince Abdulaziz, one of the world’s 10 largest luxury superyachts.

But it is widely known that even though Salman is the King of Saudi Arabia, the de facto power rests in the hands of his seventh son — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia.

It is, therefore, the wealth of the crown prince which is more in the news.

Among the possessions of Mohammed bin Salman are the Serene, a superyacht he bought for around USD 550 million in 2014, a USD 450 million Leonardo Da Vinci painting, a USD 300 million French château, and homes in London and Spain’s southern coast.

“I’m a rich person and not a poor person. I’m not Gandhi or [Nelson] Mandela. I’m a member of the ruling family that existed for hundreds of years before the founding of Saudi Arabia,” the Crown Prince famously said in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2018.

Some reports suggest that the crown prince is richer than the ruler, with an estimated net worth of USD 25 billion. But based on what his son owns, it can be assumed that, as the ruler of Saudi Arabia, the actual net worth of King Salman would be much higher than believed.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the late Emir of Abu Dhabi

Richest Kings in Asia
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of UAE, in 2010. (Image credit: President’s Secretariat/GODL-India/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: USD 19 billion (as of 2008)

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from November 2004 till his death on 13 May 2022. He was the head of the Al Nahyan family and, therefore, the controller of their vast fortune, which includes a USD 830 billion sovereign wealth fund — the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. The family owns around 6 per cent of all the world’s oil reserves and has invested in everything from English Premier League clubs to Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie line.

Sheikh Khalifa was one of the most popular and powerful leaders of the Arab world, as it was under his reign that the UAE galloped to its status as a regional economic powerhouse and a magnet for international tourism. Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, was, thus, named in his honour.

Forbes estimated his net worth in 2008, and there has not been an appraisal of his personal fortune since. However, details of his assets held in London were revealed by The Guardian in 2020.

Nicknamed the “landlord of London” for his impressive property portfolio in England, The Guardian reported he had amassed around USD 8.25 billion worth of real estate in London alone by 2015.

These included Grade II-listed Time-Life Building, office block Berkeley Square House, luxury apartment block One Kensington Gardens, and residential block 3 Hands Crescent near Harrods. The annual rental income from the properties, which numbered around 170, was approximately USD 240 million at the time.

In the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa resided in the USD 475 million Qaṣr Al-Waṭan — the 380,000 square metres presidential palace located in Abu Dhabi. His fleet comprised eight aircraft, including three Boeing 787-9s and one Airbus A320-200. Through his estate, he also owned Azzam — the world’s largest superyacht.

Following his passing, his half-brother, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, became the ruler of Abu Dhabi, head of the Al Nahyan family, and the President of the UAE.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
US President Joe Biden in a conversation with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. (Image credit: David Lienemann/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: USD 14 – USD 18 billion (as of 2008)

In 2008, Forbes reported that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who also serves as the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, has a net worth of USD 18 billion.

A year later, his net worth tumbled by USD 6 billion as a result of the global financial crisis, which led to rising debt due to large-scale borrowings for the rapid real estate development in Dubai. It is believed he has recovered much of that loss over the decade and, therefore, continues to be one of the richest kings in Asia.

An avid horse-racing enthusiast, Sheikh Mohammed is the owner of Godolphin — the world’s largest horse racing team. According to a BBC profile, Godolphin has won 6,000 races around the world since its establishment in 1992. Besides the UAE, it has facilities in England, the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Japan and the US.

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The Guardian found in 2021 that he also owns more than 400 sq km of property across the UK, making him one of the biggest landholders in the country. The report revealed that he owns almost half of the town of Newmarket, which is known as a centre for thoroughbred horse racing.

He is also a majority shareholder of Dubai Holding and owns the superyacht Dubai, which he bought for an estimated USD 400 million in 2001.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar

Qatar Emir
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei (L) meeting Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar (C). (Image credit: BY 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: USD 2.2 billion (as of 2014)

Sheikh Tamim is the ruler of Qatar and one of the richest kings in Asia. He is known for his keen interest in sports. He founded Oryx Qatar Sports Investments in 2005, which owns French football club Paris Saint-Germain.

He is the head of the Al Thani family, which has around 8,000 members, making it one of the biggest royal families in the world. As an absolute monarchy, there is little distinction between what the family owns and what the state owns. Their collective net worth is an estimated USD 355 billion through their sovereign wealth fund, Qatari Investment Authority (QIA).

The QIA basically owns (or is a major investor in) some of the most famous immovable assets, businesses and other entities around the world. Thus, among the prime properties and investments of the family are London’s The Shard, Olympic Village, Canary Wharf, Chelsea Barracks and Harrods department store. The family owns Qatar Airways and, through it, also holds a 25 per cent stake in International Airlines Group, which is the parent company of British Airways.

The Al Thani family also own the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square, half of One Hyde Park, and 8 per cent of the London Stock Exchange. It is believed that their combined holdings in London are more than that of the Crown Estate — the collection belonging to King Charles III.

Outside of England, the family owns a 10 per cent stake in New York City’s iconic Empire State Building. The QIA is the largest shareholder in Barclays Bank and a majority holder of German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen.

Sheikh Tamim’s father, the former ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, is the founder of the state-owned news media group Al Jazeera. His mother, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al Missned, bought three buildings of Cornwall Terrace in 2013 for around USD 180 million.

Members of the family also own superyachts, such as Al Mirqab and Al Lusail

King Abdullah II of Jordan

Richest royals in Asia
King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) with his son, Crown Prince Hussein (L), and US President Joe Biden. (Image credit: The White House – P20210719AS-1209/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Net worth: USD 750 million

King Abdullah II is one of the world’s most popular royals. Unlike most other rules in the Arab world, Abdullah II is a constitutional monarch, though he enjoys legislative and executive powers. Jordan isn’t an oil-rich country like the neighbouring Gulf states. On the contrary, the country relies on oil imports for energy. The economy, however, is well diversified, with primary exports being clothing, chemicals and chemical products, and potash and phosphates.

This perhaps explains why King Abdullah II isn’t a billionaire by net worth, unlike the Emirs and the Kings of the neighbouring Islamic monarchies. Yet citing the Pandora Papers, the BBC reported in 2021 that revealed that like some other Gulf monarchs, he, too, used secretly owned companies to buy properties in Malibu, Washington D.C., London and Ascot. The total worth? USD 100 million.

He had also invested in the planned USD 1.5 billion Star Trek theme park named Red Sea Astrarium in 2011. However, the project was never completed. His son, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, has a reported net worth of around USD 5 million.

(Main image: The White House/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons; Featured image: The Public Relations Department (กรมประชาสัมพันธ์)/CC BY 3.0 th/Wikimedia Commons)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Who is the richest monarch in Asia?

Maha Vajiralongkorn, the ruler of Thailand, is the richest of all the kings in Asia.

– Who is the richest royal family in Asia?

As a group, the royal family of Saudi Arabia is believed to be the richest royal family in Asia. King Salman, the head of the family, is one of the richest kings in Asia.

Source: Prestige Online

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