May 14, 2009

Man with the $15m view

Spice Group chief to invest $100m in entertainment and real estate in S'pore

By Joyce Teo

Dr Modi yesterday moved into an apartment at The Sail @ Marina Bay which he bought last August for $15.46 million. He plans to live in it with his family. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

INDIAN billionaire Bhupendra Kumar Modi moved into his $15.46 million penthouse at Marina Bay on Wednesday and immediately set about unpacking some ambitious plans for his new home country.

The founder and chairman of conglomerate Spice Group - it has interests in telecommunications, technology, financial services and entertainment - has set up two funds worth more than $100 million to invest here.

The tycoon also wants to open a 24/7 'Hollywood meets Bollywood' entertainment centre at one of two floating crystal pavilions coming up at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

Speaking to The Straits Times at his 63rd storey apartment at The Sail @ Marina Bay, Dr Modi said he plans to spend 'tens of millions' on the project and is in talks with Sands to either buy or lease a pavilion.

'We are getting designers from Hollywood and from Bollywood to design it,' he said, adding that the IR could use his design or do its own. But the idea is to entice Hollywood and Bollywood stars to entertain crowds here on a regular basis.

Dr Modi, 60, also owns a film production company and wants to attract directors. Indian star Anil Kapoor has been lined up to act in a movie to be shot here. The businessman, who relocated the global headquarters of Mumbai-based Spice Corp to Singapore last year, said he is here to stay.

Dr Modi said that his two new funds involve nuts and bolts investment strategy and their share of risk-taking. One fund is a special-situation real estate vehicle. This will target half-completed projects here or projects that are delayed due to a lack of funds.

'The world is going through a special need people to take special risks,' he said. 'We are looking for 25 per cent returns...high risks, high returns. We are not looking for immediate returns. We are willing to wait two, three years.'

His team is assessing about 20 possible projects. Dr Modi said they are keen on joint ventures, and Marina Bay Sands is certainly on his radar screen. He also said he is discussing a deal to buy a residential building in the eastern part of Singapore. The other fund will focus on investment in entertainment.

'Singapore is very much the right place for me,' said Dr Modi. It is cosmopolitan, secular, very secure, has a growing population, well-connected.'

Penthouse 'like a hotel suite'

HIS new home sprawls across 5,834 sq ft and has spectacular Marina Bay views that match the apartment's colour scheme of cream and baby blue.

Everything in the apartment - from the interior design, custom-made furniture, prints, paintings and even the coffee-table books in the living room - was planned by a design team from Beverly Hills, where he was based previously.

An integrated high-tech system ensures round-the-clock entertainment at a click.

Dr Modi is moving here with his family, but says his son Dilip, 33, who is the group president for global operations at Spice Corp, wants to stay on his own at a family owned apartment in The Claymore, a condominium in the Orchard Road area.

Dr Modi bought the The Sail apartment last August, but his investment took a huge hit with the slump in the property market here.

Unfazed, he said: 'It is a home. I am not here to sell it. I will be using it also to entertain people. That way, I can justify the cost.'

Dr Modi plans to hold meetings as well as parties at his penthouse. He even broached the idea of inviting girl band Pussycat Dolls to a party, although he does not know them personally.

While Dr Modi himself expects to spend about 100 days a year in Singapore, his penthouse - 'like a hotel suite' and a 24/7 entertainment zone - will be open 365 days of the year to friends, business associates and celebrities, he said.