Feature... The influencers and how they spend it
Along with the hard work and title comes the generous pay packet and bonus. But, how are Asia’s agency chiefs converting their assets?
Miles Young, Chairman, Asia-Pacific, Ogilvy & Mather
Miles Young’s passion for Chinese contemporary art was kindled soon after his arrival in Asia in 1995.
Already a sporadic buyer of the occasional painting, his collection became more focused after a meeting with the renowned Chinese abstract artist Shen Fan in 1996.
Accompanied by Ogilvy Greater China chairman TB Song, Young paid a visit to Shen’s studio outside Shanghai. His reaction was instantaneous.
“I fell in love with his work and bought two large pieces,” says Young. “It really started from there.”
Over the last decade, Young has built up a formidable collection of contemporary art that he houses in his Hong Kong home on the Peak.
But while it was Chinese painting that first sparked Young’s passion, the recent global attention on Chinese modern art has shifted his focus slightly.
“Chinese contemporary sculpture is my interest now,” he says.
“The painting market has just become too hot, ludicrously so, and quality is declining as many artists paint for cash. China’s sculptors are very good but relatively under-recognised.”
Young tends not to covet any particular artwork, instead preferring to respond to works intuitively as they come along.
This way, he mostly manages to get his hands on what he is interested in.
His most personal piece - and the one he would choose to keep if forced to cast away all but one of his collection - is an older work on marble from before the Cultural Revolution entitled ‘Tomorrow’, by Liu Huanzhang.
Even when on business, Young likes to keep one eye on opportunities to add to his collection.
In fact, he thinks he may well have identified his next purchase in Northeast China’s Changchun city, which he visited recently to attend a business conference.
“There’s a very good sculptor there whose work I saw in the lavish International Sculpture Park there,” Young muses.
“He works in bronze and I’ve now got to track him down.”
Alan Vandermolen, President, Asia-Pacific, Edelman
Childhood nights spent under the bed covers listening to radio broadcasts of the Cincinnati Reds put Alan Vandermolen on course for a lifelong obsession with baseball that would later see him turn into a serious collector of sporting memorabilia.
“I started collecting baseball cards from the time I could walk,” says Vandermolen.
“Then, I moved on to photographs. I used to write every Major League team one letter per year saying they were my favourite team and asking if they could send me a team photograph. Inevitably, I got floods of photographs.”
Vandermolen quickly graduated from baseball cards to more serious memorabilia.
His first important piece was an autographed photo of baseball legend Mickey Mantle, picked up at a minor game in Columbus, Ohio, where Mantle was making a guest appearance after his retirement.
Since then, his collection has grown to about 150 pieces, from the small - a set of cufflinks that once belonged to Roger Maris; to the large - a life-size cut-out of Ted Williams.
His Hong Kong office is home to several of his favourite pieces, including a game-used and signed baseball bat from Hank Aaron and a game-used and signed jersey from Cal Ripkin Jr.
“The most expensive single piece I have purchased is a mint-condition Babe Ruth autographed baseball,” says Vandermolen.
“Let’s just say that it set me back more than a few ballpark franks... and one box seat ticket at Yankee Stadium for each of my 600 colleagues in the region.”
Patrick Stahle, CEO, Aegis Media Asia-Pacific
For Patrick Stahle, a personal commitment to the environment has meant that his purchasing habits tend to have an especially green feel.
Top of his recent spend list is a geo-thermal heating system that pumps water from 200 metres below the ground into his 100-year-old home back in his native Sweden. The system, common to many Swedish homes, uses the water’s natural heat to warm the house, almost entirely replacing the need for oil and electricity.
“Even in the coldest of Swedish winters, the system only needs to be complemented by between five and 10 per cent of electricity,” says Stahle.
He says that while the system cost in the region of US$25,000 to set up, it will pay itself back in terms of lower bills overall in the next five to seven years.
Stahle also opens his wallet every year to offset his family’s carbon footprint. His annual payment goes towards funding a project that installs solar panels in parts of rural China.
Meanwhile, under Stahle’s guidance, all of Aegis’ offices in the Asia-Pacific region are now working towards a target of bringing down their carbon footprint by 20 per cent.
“It is the small things that can make a difference,” he says. “Installing low-energy light bulbs, shutting computers and checking electricity usage. But these will eventually bring savings to the company.”
D Sriram, CEO, Asia, Starcom Worldwide
It took a joyride on a microlight plane in Nepal and a nudge of inspiration from actor Vin Diesel to get D Sriram to revive a childhood dream and take to the sky in his own plane.
“On that ride (in Nepal), I learnt that imperfect vision is not a barrier to earning a pilot’s licence and I put it on my list of things to do,” says Sriram. “Later that year, I watched the action movie xXx and it got me off my backside and searching the internet for a flying school.”
With a few lessons under his belt, the next step was to purchase his own plane - a single-engine Maule MXT-7 180 Star Rocket, which he flies out of Singapore’s Seletar Airport. His most regular flight path is a hop over the border into Malaysia’s Johor state. “If I have a bit more time, I like to fly to Malacca or Tioman Island, he says. “For weekends, I like to fly to Kuala Lumpur or, occasionally, to Penang.”
With one eye on increasing his flight time - the longest trip so far has been from Singapore to Bangkok flying solo, which took 19 hours and 17 minutes - Sriram is considering an upgrade to a twin-engine Diamond Twin Star. And like all airborne romantics, he has a place in his heart for the biggest flight of them all: “Some day, I would like to fly solo around the world in my single-engine plane, but that is a huge, huge project.”
John Zeigler, President and CEO, Asia-Pacific, DDB
John Zeigler began his affair with classic cars at the age of 16, when he helped his father rebuild a 1933 Dodge. However, it was with the Porsche sports car that Zeigler really found his passion.
His first purchase - a 1954 Porsche 356 Speedster - was never meant to stay around long. Zeigler had bought the vehicle with the intention of restoring it back to mint condition and then selling it on for profit.
“But I couldn’t bear to let it go,” he says. “And one car quickly became two, two became three and so on.”
His reluctance to part with his cars meant that Zeigler was soon in possession of a grand total of nine Porsches and two Ferraris. The car-count was so large he even had to buy a factory space to house them all.
That space is now regularly used for company events, charity drives and even business meetings. More than one client has watched the latest campaign show-reel from the driving seat of a classic Porsche.
Zeigler doesn’t see himself as spending money as much as earning. Indeed, his first purchase is now worth somewhere in the region of A$270,000 (US$231,225) off an initial investment of A$60,000.
“I have probably tripled my money in the time I’ve been building the cars,” he says.
This article was first published on Media Asia
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