Rob­bie an­to­nio


AugustMan (Malaysia) - - Exposé -

Meet the man who is on Forbes’ Rich­est List, wears Tom Ford, par­ties with Lenny Kravitz and the founder of Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted

Rob­bie An­to­nio roars as his busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager takes a seat on the side-line dur­ing the pho­to­shoot af­ter he is in­structed not to leave his sight. Amidst look­ing fiercely into the cam­era while strik­ing a re­laxed pose, the duo are in an ar­dent dis­cus­sion about clos­ing a busi­ness deal here in Kuala Lumpur. A lo­cal de­vel­oper has named its price ‒ one that is much lower than the one pro­posed.

Peo­ple on the scene can per­ceive there is a hint of im­pa­tience in the air, per­haps born out of frus­tra­tion as the ne­go­ti­a­tions inch along. “It has to be right and it has to be fast,” An­to­nio spells out ef­fi­ciency as the value he places the most im­por­tance on. “Peo­ple say be pa­tient, I am the ex­act op­po­site. I want ev­ery­thing now. It is a sprint, not just a marathon. Peo­ple say it is a long-term thing. Yes, it is a marathon but to me it is al­ways a sprint.”

The morn­ing started early. An­to­nio has taken up a tran­si­tory res­i­dence at The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur for his busi­ness trip to Kuala Lumpur. The pho­to­shoot is held a few floors down af­ter we re­mod­elled a meet­ing room into a make-shift stu­dio. A mono­light was in­stalled and tweaked just so we could get the ex­act light­ing as en­vi­sioned on the mood board. His self-as­sur­ance is pal­pa­ble. He may not be the most soft-spo­ken per­son you will ever meet nor will he be the most amenable muse to the maquilleuse.

“I only use one type of po­made,” An­to­nio replies with swag and con­vic­tion when the hair­styl­ist of­fers his sug­ges­tion. An­to­nio’s as­sis­tant is dis­patched to the suite to re­trieve his po­made.

Min­utes later, An­to­nio’s as­sis­tant re­turns with his trusted hair prod­uct. The hair­styl­ist pro­ceeds to work his magic, prep­ping him for the cam­era. Stand­ing on the des­ig­nated spot, An­to­nio flashes a mil­lion-dol­lar smile. “Come on Mr Pho­tog­ra­pher, I am ready,” he beams.

An­to­nio knows what he wants. It is there­fore not a sur­prise that he be­came the youngest per­son to join the Forbes’ 50 Rich­est In the Philip­pines list. He joins his fa­ther at num­ber 25 with a col­lec­tive net worth of US$400 mil­lion (RM1.6 bil­lion). He is a dark knight rid­ing a uni­corn on a cru­sade to rev­o­lu­tionise real es­tate. His equine is Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted.

A few years ago, he saw that there was a dis­con­nect in the real es­tate sec­tor wherein he could ex­ploit. For a build­ing to come into fruition, it con­sumes a lot of time in de­sign and on­site con­struc­tion. What if the whole process from the be­gin­ning to the end is stream­lined? A mas­ter de­vel­oper only has to se­lect from a dig­i­tal cat­a­logue and the or­der will be placed. Homes are con­structed off­site and fi­nally trans­ported to the site be­fore be­ing as­sem­bled like flat pack fur­ni­ture. Costs are saved be­cause fewer builders are re­quired and home­own­ers re­joice be­cause they will be

“We can match that”

handed their keys in weeks in­stead of years.

“Would you say that you are the Elon Musk of real es­tate and that Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted is the Tesla of real es­tate?” I raise the ques­tion to him. “Be­ing com­pared and see­ing the par­al­lel­ism be­tween Tesla and us and Musk and I is such an hon­our for us,” An­to­nio says with a grin be­fore con­tin­u­ing, “in­ter­est­ingly, Musk and I were re­cently recog­nised by BuiltWorlds as one of the pi­o­neer­ing com­pa­nies that help trans­form the built in­dus­try.”

An­to­nio was born into a fam­ily of de­vel­op­ers. His fa­ther Jose An­to­nio is one of the founders and cur­rent chair­man of Cen­tury Prop­er­ties, a lux­ury prop­erty de­vel­oper based in the Philip­pines. But An­to­nio chose to cut his teeth in the US. Upon grad­u­at­ing from North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity with a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Eco­nom­ics, he founded An­to­nio De­vel­op­ment. He also has an MBA from Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity. The New York-based de­vel­op­ment com­pany is re­spon­si­ble for Cen­tu­rion ‒ the first res­i­den­tial build­ing in the Big Ap­ple de­signed by Pritzker Prize win­ner Pei Part­ner­ships Ar­chi­tects. Cen­tu­rion proved to be one of the many lux­ury homes born out of col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts and An­to­nio’s con­scious de­ci­sions to be ex­cep­tional at ev­ery­thing he does. The Mid­town de­vel­op­ment is among the first projects he em­barked on.

Back then he was young, in his 20s and fresh out of school, but it didn’t faze him. “On the con­trary, I was very ex­cited. I wanted to prove to my­self that I can be suc­cess­ful on my own, us­ing my own abil­i­ties, and cre­at­ing my own con­nec­tions to start up a busi­ness. I con­sider my­self to be a very in­de­pen­dent per­son and I also en­joy tak­ing on chal­lenges. Build­ing some­thing from scratch on your own and con­tin­u­ing to start new ven­ture is par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing and I am just glad that I was able to do it,” the 41-year-old en­thuses.

Cen­tu­rion also gave him the im­pe­tus to po­si­tion build­ings in a proper for­mat. Piece by piece, he be­gan to lay down the tiles for his domi­noes. When he re­turned to his home­land, he ap­proached recog­nis­able brands for res­i­dences whose in­te­ri­ors were fur­nished by lux­ury brands such as Ar­mani/Casa and Ver­sace Home.

“They (Ar­mani/Casa) don’t even want much art on the walls,” An­to­nio quips in a Forbes’ in­ter­view, elu­ci­dat­ing the in­te­ri­ors of the plush apart­ments sited at Trump Tower Manila, which is set to open its doors soon. When the project was first an­nounced to much fan­fare, An­to­nio was grac­ing mag­a­zine cov­ers and pho­tographed along­side the leader of the free world.

That min­i­mal­ist ap­proach is a far cry from An­to­nio’s own ob­ses­sion with the arts. He owns an ex­ten­sive art col­lec­tion by fa­mous painters and by fa­mous painters of him­self. His home dou­bles as a de­pos­i­tory for the oeu­vre of self-por­traits en­ti­tled (ditto) Ob­ses­sion. “Art al­lows me to in­ject cre­ativ­ity. It is not just be­cause it is a pure in­vest­ment. I love work­ing with artists, ar­chi­tects, de­sign­ers. I like fash­ion peo­ple be­cause they are very cre­ative,” An­to­nio ex­plains. He ap­peared on Van­ity Fair and Wall­pa­per be­cause art crit­ics were en­thralled by his ar­dour. While he is still very much en­grossed with art, Ob­ses­sion has taken a back­seat to Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted.

Launched in De­cem­ber 2015, Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted has been on a me­te­oric rise. “To date, we are present and have projects in 25 coun­tries with to­tal con­sol­i­dated project rev­enues of US$8.5 bil­lion with our part­ners in the next three to four years. We are ex­pected to de­liver 35,000 units from our projects. This is no small feat, es­pe­cially for a com­pany that is less than three years old,” An­to­nio stresses.

Since then, Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted has grown from five peo­ple, in­clud­ing him­self, dur­ing its in­cep­tion to 1,200 peo­ple presently. I ask him is Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted cur­rently op­er­a­tionally prof­itable. His an­swer is a re­sound­ing “def­i­nitely”. “We are fi­nan­cially ready to sup­port our cur­rent or­ders,” he adds.

In the same pe­riod, Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted went through a cou­ple of rounds of fi­nanc­ing. The lat­est se­ries B fund­ing was con­cluded in Oc­to­ber 2017, pro­pel­ling its val­u­a­tion to over US$1 bil­lion, hence the much-cov­eted uni­corn ‒ a term coined for a pri­vately-held start-up val­ued at over US$1 bil­lion. “Yes, we are not dis­count­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of rais­ing ex­ter­nal fund­ing, only to sup­port our planned



global ex­pan­sion. We want to be present in 55 coun­tries by 2019 and in 85 coun­tries by the end of 2020. Nat­u­rally, we will need to beef up our re­sources and man­power in or­der to make this pos­si­ble. As to the man­ner of fund rais­ing, we are look­ing into do­ing a se­ries C in 2019 and/or a pos­si­ble ini­tial coin of­fer­ing (ICO) for one of our ini­tia­tives,” An­to­nio lets me in on his fu­ture plans.

He up­holds Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted adds value to any de­vel­op­ers. Rea­son be­ing the de­sign­ers he chooses to col­lab­o­rate with for his pre­fabs. “Ob­vi­ously, they need to be recog­nised for their work. It is the rep­u­ta­tion that I look for. They need to add value,” An­to­nio sets forth the con­di­tion.

To fur­ther drive home the point, he cites Lenny Kravitz, the Amer­i­can rock star fa­mous for his hits Amer­i­can Woman and Are You Gonna Go My Way. A prod­uct of Kravitz’s epony­mous in­te­rior de­sign firm is pur­veyed on Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted’s web­site. The cu­ri­ously-named In­stru­men­tal Home is a free­stand­ing en­clo­sure that in­cludes a liv­ing area, kitchen, one bed­room and one bath­room. Every part is pre­fab­ri­cated, from its durable ex­te­rior ma­te­ri­als to mod­u­lar fur­ni­ture.

“A lot of peo­ple I work with started with busi­ness first and then they be­came friends. Some are friends first, then it (the re­la­tion­ship) be­came busi­ness. It is a nat­u­ral thing. I don’t work too hard to try to get peo­ple. It just has to be nat­u­ral for both to trust each other. I will try to do my best for their prod­ucts. At the end of the day, it is con­sumer choice,” An­to­nio says in gen­eral re­fer­ring to the dy­nam­ics be­tween friend­ship and busi­ness while en­com­pass­ing his re­la­tion with Kravitz.

“None­the­less, we can say that there is great de­mand for our prod­ucts. There is also sub­stan­tial in­ter­est in our mid-en­try homes be­cause they have more ac­ces­si­ble price points. In terms of geo­graph­i­cal reach, we now have sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in Asia, South Amer­ica, Cen­tral Amer­ica, Europe, North Amer­ica and Africa.”

It was in the Mid­dle East that Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted scored its most lu­cra­tive deal to date. The mam­moth deal is worth US$3.2 bil­lion and en­tails the man­u­fac­tur­ing of lux­ury apart­ments and ho­tel vil­las in Dubai’s The World Is­lands, com­posed of 300 ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands. An­to­nio says th­ese two- to three-bed­room lux­ury con­do­mini­ums will be pre-man­u­fac­tured, shipped and then as­sem­bled on­site.

To keep up with de­mand, Revo­lu­tion Pre­crafted has fab­ri­ca­tors in Europe, Asia, Mid­dle East and Africa. But at the same time, An­to­nio is also ag­gres­sively look­ing for fur­ther ex­pan­sion of their fab­ri­ca­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties. “The qual­ity should be top notch in or­der to main­tain the level of qual­ity of our homes and prod­ucts,” he as­serts.

Still brim­ming with boun­ti­ful en­ergy whipped up by mul­ti­ple changes of cloth­ing, hair­styles and poses, he nudges me to ask him more ques­tions while a hairdryer hov­ers above his head. So what is your plan for the rest of the day? “I had all my busi­ness meet­ings yes­ter­day. I am go­ing to com­plete them and head to Manila in a bit, Dubai on Satur­day, In­dia on (com­ing) Mon­day. I will spend the week­end (at home). Then all the way to seven dif­fer­ent South Amer­i­can coun­tries. We want to be preva­lent and ubiq­ui­tous, in six con­ti­nents, which we al­ready are. There is no play.

“But this is play. When I am hav­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher and (cre­ative) di­rec­tor like this, I am hav­ing fun,” An­to­nio gleams re­fer­ring to the pho­to­shoot.

In be­tween ex­hibit­ing at De­sign Mi­ami, im­mers­ing in meet­ing af­ter meet­ing, An­to­nio starts his day early. He leaves the bed at 4am every day, hits the gym and ar­rives in the of­fice be­fore nor­mal busi­ness hours. “I was re­cently in Sin­ga­pore for the Forbes Next Ty­coons con­fer­ence. It was a good time to net­work with them (at­ten­dees who are busi­ness ti­tans and heirs from mostly around Asia). I re­ally try to bal­ance be­tween dif­fer­ent facets of busi­ness and of my­self as an in­di­vid­ual. When I have a bit of time when I travel, I get to see a bit of the (lo­cal) cul­ture like art and de­sign,” An­to­nio opens up on his per­son­al­ity as the pho­to­shoot draws to a close. “I can be very artis­tic; I can be very play­ful; I can be very hard in the board­room.” AM



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