Group CEO of AirAsia Tony Fernandes paid a light-hearted personal tribute to his close friend Nazir Razak at the Asia House Business Leaders Award Gala Dinner joking that 48-year-old Razak had stolen all his ideas and he should have won the Award. “I am actually a little bit unclear why Nazir has won this Award. It really should have been me, Asia House!” he said. “I question his business acumen because he plagiarised everything from AirAsia,” he joked, referring to CIMB Group expanding in the ASEAN region and “going from blue to red.”
“Besides I bought this airline for 25 cents and now I have 200 planes,” he boasted. The Malaysian entrepreneur purchased AirAsia in 2001 for one ringgit (about 25 US cents). At the time it was a heavily debt-laden airline that belonged to Malaysian owner DRB-Hicom and had just two old aeroplanes. He transformed it into a profitable budget airline and one of Asia’s most recognised brands that flies to more than 88 destinations in Asia.
Then on a more serious note, Fernandes, who went to boarding school Epsom College in Surrey in the UK and later LSE, and is a close friend of Richard Branson, praised his friend, who is CIMB Group Chairman, for winning the annual Award which is given to individuals who exemplify the concept of the Servant Leader and highlights the links between economic success, professional excellence accompanied by moral leadership, and service to society.
“But Asia House did get it right!” he went on to say. “Nazir is a fantastic moral, passionate and honourable man, a man that Malaysia is extremely proud of, a man who has backbone, a man who sticks to his principles, especially now in these troubled times. It has been amazing to see him stand up to what he believes and stand up to what he thinks is right and should be done,” Fernandes, who was ranked by Forbes in 2015 as the 33rd richest person in Malaysia worth US$ 530 million (£342 million), said.
“This is a pivotal time for Malaysia but it is fantastic for people like me to see Nazir have the moral obligation to do what he believes is right. I feel very proud of my dear friend Nazir Razak, whose father [Tun Abdul Razak Hussein] was probably the coolest prime minister.”
Fernandes, who is also chairman of Queens Park Rangers F.C., then went on to say: “I dream one day Malaysia will have someone like Dato’ Seri Nazir as the leader of our country and realise the enormous potential we have in our country, so here is your mandate Nazir to go out there and be prime minister one day and make us all proud,” he adding, glancing at Mr Razak who was seated. This was followed by loud applause.
“He is a fantastic friend and that’s why he should win the Award. Friendship is the one thing you can’t buy or donate. Anyone will travel with you in a limo but only a true friend will travel with you in a bus or a low-cost carrier,” he added, smiling.
Nazir Razak gave an acceptance speech in which he responded to some of Tony Fernandes’ jokey jibes. Photo by Miles Willis
In his acceptance speech of the Award, which came after the speech by the airline tycoon, top Malaysian banker Mr Razak, who also went to a UK boarding school, Oundle School in Northamptonshire and later Bristol University, responded to some of Fernandes’ jokey jibes. He said he did not wish to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia, even though his elder brother Najib Razak is the current prime minister and his father was Malaysia’s second prime minister. The banking stalwart had said in a separate interview with Asia House that he had no plans to enter politics. To read that interview click here.
To read what Nazir Razak said in his acceptance speech, when he addressed various serious issues facing the region, click here.
To read an interview Nazir Razak gave to Asia House when he discussed ASEAN integration click here.
To read more coverage of the Asian Business Leaders Award Dinner 2015 click here.