World Economy

Man deemed 'Indonesia's Donald Trump' considers presidential run

Key Points
  • Billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo is Trump's business partner in Indonesia
  • Tanoesoedibjo may consider running for Indonesia's 2018 presidential election
'Indonesia's Donald Trump' mulls presidential run

The world's most populous Muslim nation could have its own version of President Donald Trump.

Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, one of Trump's overseas business partners, who has been likened to the Republican in various ways, told CNBC on Thursday he may run for the top job in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Founder and president of diversified conglomerate MNC Group, Tanoesoedibjo created his own political faction in 2015 — the United Indonesia Party, or Perindo — and said he may enter the 2018 presidential race if nobody else from his party was game.

"Let's see, if there is nobody else, I may consider," the 51-year-old magnate said on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Video Operators Summit (APOS) in Bali.

Perindo is focused on increasing the welfare of the poor and bridging the country's massive wealth gap, he explained.

"My interest in politics is to see Indonesia growing in the right direction, to see a developed Indonesia." He noted that incoming Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan personally promised him to focus on the poor.

Aside from being a billionaire involved in politics, Tanoesoedibjo, who was invited to Trump's inauguration, holds several links to the U.S. president.

MNC is Indonesia's largest media company, with television stations, pay-TV channels, a radio network and print publications under its belt, but it also operates ventures across a range of industries, including financial services and property.

Billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, founder of MNC Group.
Dimas Ardian /Bloomberg / Getty Images

It's currently working with Trump Hotel Collection, the president's hospitality company, on multiple projects. The two firms are developing the Trump International Hotel Bali — a six-star luxury resort on the famed Indonesian island — that will be the Trump Hotel Collection's first resort in Asia. Another joint project is a resort in Lido, West Java that will boast a country club, villas, condominiums and an 18-hole Ernie Els golf course, which will be Trump's first golf course in Asia.

"I know Trump, (but) it would be an exaggeration to say I know him well...I met him before he became president," Tanoesoedibjo said.

Both men are also prolific on Twitter, have glamorous wives and were involved in beauty pageants — MNC was an Indonesian organizer of the 2013 Miss World competition and Trump is a former owner of the Miss Universe Organization.

But these resemblances are "just a coincidence," Tanoesoedibjo said. "His business and mine are a bit similiar, except that I also have financial services."

Established in 1997, MNC has said it intends to spend $2.25 billion over the next five years to fund expansion.

Most of that money will be spent on the two Trump resort projects, Tanoesoedibjo said. Some will also be deployed for MNC to roll out fixed broadband in six Indonesian cities, he continued.

"Digital is going to be the future..that's why I'm rolling out fixed broadband so I can offer IPTV (internet protocol television), high-speed internet, and OTT (over-the-top services)."