Fragrance Hotel Boss Has Been Going On A GCB Spree, Last One Is $65 Million Bought By Wife

19 July 2022 | BY

This hotel CEO and property magnate goes shopping for bungalows like how we “add to cart” online.

You might be familiar with the brand Fragrance Hotels, a line of affordable hotels in Singapore with a past rep of being “love hotels” – well, those you sneak in for a discreet dose of hanky-panky.

What you might not be familiar with would be the man being this successful hotel chain, Fragrance Group CEO James Koh Wee Meng. Among Singapore’s richest, the hotelier and property magnate actually hails from a jewellery background but made his mark with the first Fragrance Hotel (in Geylang) and its rapid expansion when he was just 33. 

Lately, the brand has moved out of the love hotel stereotype with a rebranding, and the CEO in his 50s has also moved on to bigger and better things as evidenced by bold moves he made expanding his property empire. We take a look at his buys in recent years for a glimpse of his property savvy. 

Disclaimer: These houses are private property, so please do not trespass if you’re ever nearby – just admire them from afar if you pass by.

Bought old GCB bungalow along Lornie Road worth $24.8 million 

In January 2022, the CEO bought a bungalow in the Caldecott Hill GCB area along Lornie Road. This was at the price of $24.8 million! Looking at the massive freehold land area of 25,271 sq ft, that is equivalent to $981 per sq ft.

bungalowSituated besides the Lornie Viaduct and off Joan Road, the bungalow is relatively near to the main road and highway.
Image credit: Google Maps

To give some context to us plebeians, this is considered quite a bargain, with GCBs in the same area transacting around $1,628 psf in May 2022 for a Joan Road GCB and $1,537 psf for an Olive Road GCB in June 2021. Another well-known name, Secretlab co-founder Ian Ang, was said to have snagged an Olive Road GCB last year for around $1,537 psf as well. 

This lower price tag might be due to two reasons. Firstly, the site’s location fronts the main Lornie Road and is near the highway, with considerable amounts of noise pollution from traffic. Secondly, the bungalow was built decades ago and is not exactly in the best condition – perhaps more of an investment and redevelopment buy for James rather than a place to stay in. 

Bungalow at Hillside Drive for $19.25 million 

Adding to his momentum, Koh bought another massive bungalow within a span of two months earlier this year – he truly buys homes like how we add to our online shopping cart.

The home in question is situated at Hillside Drive off Yio Chu Kang Road, which costs $19.25 million and boasts a slightly smaller, but still massive land area of 21,046 square feet. The psf lands at around $915.

bungalowThe site should be around 48 Hillside Drive, as per our little detective investigation.
Image credit: Google Maps

To note, the deal was actually officially completed in Dec 2021 last year. And with ABSD (Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty) measures yet to kick in, that means Koh would have gotten it at 12% pre-hike instead of 17%, or 15% vs 25%, depending if this was his second or third property respectively.

bungalowImage credit: Google Maps

It is also a rather huge plot, and is not classified as a non-landed housing area, leading to the possibility of building apartment complexes or even detached houses – making it brimming with investment and redevelopment potential.

Wife buys Good Class Bungalow at Bishopsgate for $65 million 

And that’s not all with regards to this “shopping spree”. Some couples collect snowglobes, others collect figurines, and yet others like Koh and his wife – well, they seem to collect Good Class Bungalows. 

Lim Wan Looi, wife of Fragrance Group’s boss, further added to their collection of GCBs with a purchase of a GCB at Bishopgate.

bungalowsThe site somewhere along 3 Bishopgate is easy to miss, surrounded by lush greenery affording it utmost privacy.
Image credit: Google Maps

bungalowsImage credit: Google Maps

Officially changing hands for the heftiest price tag yet – $65 million – the 29,435 sqft freehold site is home to an old, single-story bungalow. That’s the highest ever psf among the three properties at 2,208 – but it’s no surprise considering the area’s proximity to town and the botanic gardens. 

Picking up other properties at Sentosa Cove and Verdun House

Besides prime districts on the mainland, Koh has also made moves at one of SG’s most premium addresses: Sentosa Cove. For instance, he sold a sea-facing bungalow along Cove Grove for $21.89 million just last year. He has also dabbled in commercial properties this year, such as bidding for a site (Verdun House) at Farrer Park for it to be redeveloped. 

The property magnate has certainly been busy buying and selling last year and this, buying three bungalows already in a short span of time. One possible reason? Possible future inflation of property prices, which could well mean Koh could see his investments appreciating in value fast.

Well, one thing’s for sure – the property market shows no sign of slowing down, and if your wallets are deep enough like the Fragrance Hotel boss’, it might be time to pick up some properties with potential. As for the rest of us, we might just stick to buying houses on our Monopoly boards. 

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Cover image adapted from: Google Maps

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