Exits

Sam Malin's millions

Dec 08/Jan 09 issue
 

After discovering oil in Madagascar, Sam Malin started his company, Madagascar Oil, from scratch. It’s now worth over $1 billion. Kathleen Hall finds out how he enjoys his wealth

Sam Malin certainly knows how to spend his riches. For both work and leisure he has travelled to more than 70 countries and is fluent in several languages. Big spends for Malin have included vintage American cars, properties in exotic locations around the world and perhaps most grandiose of all – a 13th century Scottish castle.

But before you start to imagine him as some sort of wannabe James Bond figure (although his wife did briefly appear in Die Another Day) the millionaire’s main expense so far has been his family home in Essex.

‘We were really drawn to the craftsmanship of the house,’ he enthuses. Built in 1901 as a headmaster’s residence, and then used as an orphanage for boys, Malin initially spent £600,000 on the property and a further £1 million refurbishing it.

Home comforts

‘We spent a considerable amount pulling down the old extension and turning it into a room that has a bar, Jacuzzi, gym, dance floor, cinema screen and a hairdressing salon.’ And there is even a bit of smooth 007 mood-setting too: ‘All the audio and lighting is controlled at the bar,’ he adds.

The rest of the house also has its own unique charm. ‘We’ve given each room its own theme. There’s an Indian, Arabian, African room and even a Gothic one – which is painted all black.’

Equally quirky is Malin’s taste in artwork, which includes a painting by heavy metal legend Alice Cooper of Beckenham-born rockers Status Quo. ‘Alice Cooper painted Status Quo for charity and we bought it for £2,200 – a real bargain!’

Less “out there” but equally random is Malin’s award-winning collection of cacti. ‘I have over 100 specimens and have been collecting since I was five years old. I would say I’ve spent several thousand pounds on them,’ he says, going on to admit that he is an avid map and coin collector.

At the more extravagant end, Malin splashed out £300,000 on a range of classic and modern cars. These include a 1960 Cadillac Deville, a 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V – both of the 26-foot-long beasts have their own separate garage to house them – and a Jaguar XJ. ‘We also have a Vauxhall Carlton when we want to lower our profile a bit,’ he jokes.

Given Malin’s extensive travels, it’s not surprising that he has a number of properties in a variety of locations. Malin and his wife visit their £136,000 house in Cameroon and £410,000 property in British Columbia several times a year, although he says these represent investments rather than homes. The rest of the year is spent between their house in Essex and their £340,000 property in Madagascar.

It’s worth noting that it’s not all sightseeing and business, as he donates around £100,000 a year to non-government organisations to help address poverty, mostly in Madagascar, which has been the source of so much of his wealth.

And the £250,000 13th century Scottish castle? ‘It isn’t somewhere we stay,’ laughs Malin. ‘It would be rather impractical because it doesn’t have a roof.’

The picturesque ruin in Hailes, East Lothian, is open to the public and administered by trust group Historic Scotland. ‘That’s the way it should be,’ says Malin. ‘We definitely wanted a piece of the romance when we bought it, but it should be there for everybody to enjoy too.

‘We love history and have always found Scotland welcoming. Being from West Canada there’s a strong Scottish influence there, so I think I must have some sort of connection with the country.’

So is Malin’s dual British and Canadian nationality partly responsible for his interest in historic properties? ‘In West Canada there is virtually nothing older than 1900. So, yes, it was certainly the reason for our interest in the castle and partly behind what drew us to our house in Essex, too.’ 

Vital statistics

Age: 44

Status:
Married

Business mantra: Keep persevering

Hobbies:
Coin and map collecting