Sultan Ibrahim of Johor state as new king of Malaysia

In a grand ceremony held at the palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, the affluent ruler of Johor state, officially assumed the role of the nation’s new king on Wednesday.

This momentous event marked the initiation of his monarch duties under Malaysia’s distinctive rotating monarchy system. The 65-year-old billionaire sultan, renowned for his expansive business empire spanning real estate, telecommunications, and power plants, took the oath of office in the presence of fellow royal families, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, and members of the Cabinet. A formal coronation ceremony is scheduled for a later date.


Sultan Ibrahim’s ascent to the national throne was anticipated, as it aligns with the established rotation order among the nine ethnic Malay state rulers, who take turns as the king for five-year terms. This unique system has been in place since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. While the king, known as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, holds a ceremonial role, he plays a crucial part in ceremonial aspects, being the nominal head of the government and armed forces, and acting as the guardian of Islam and Malay tradition. Sultan Ibrahim’s election followed the completion of the term of Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang state, who navigated a challenging period marked by COVID-19 lockdowns and political turbulence.

The role of the king has witnessed a growing political influence in recent years. Sultan Abdullah, the previous monarch, intervened in political matters, including appointing Prime Minister Anwar after a hung parliament in the 2022 general elections. Sultan Ibrahim, in an interview with the Singapore Straits Times, expressed his intention to adopt a hands-on approach during his tenure, focusing on combating corruption and fostering national unity. The sultan, along with other rulers, has also cautioned against efforts to destabilize Anwar’s government, emphasizing the need for political stability in the country.


Sultan Ibrahim, whose lineage includes English ancestry, stands out as a prominent figure with a multifaceted approach to governance, actively engaging in welfare issues. An advocate for grassroots connection, he embarks on annual road trips astride his motorbike, traversing his state to interact directly with the people, fostering a deeper understanding of their needs.

The sultan, transparent about his considerable wealth, exemplified his opulence earlier on Wednesday by commuting from Johor to Kuala Lumpur aboard his private jet, a resplendent gold-and-blue Boeing 737. His possessions extend beyond the skies, encompassing a diverse collection of cars, motorcycles, and properties abroad. Distinctively, Sultan Ibrahim commands a private army, a unique arrangement forged for Johor’s integration into modern Malaysia.

Amid his high corporate profile, Sultan Ibrahim’s involvement, including a stake in the substantial Forest City development project in Johor alongside China’s Country Garden, has prompted scrutiny, raising concerns over potential conflicts of interest. However, the sultan, in an interview with the Singapore Straits Times, outlined plans to rejuvenate the high-speed rail link project with Singapore and fortify the troubled Forest City initiative.

Defending his business engagements, Sultan Ibrahim, in a candid statement back in 2015, underscored the necessity to “earn a living, like ordinary Malaysians,” highlighting the constraints of his 27,000 ringgit ($5,700) monthly state allowance. Beyond his public role, The sultan is a family man, with his wife, Raja Zarith Sofiah, hailing from another royal lineage. An Oxford graduate and prolific writer, she has authored numerous children’s books. Together, they nurture a family of five sons and a daughter, embodying a blend of tradition, prosperity, and intellectual pursuits.

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