Occasionally we come across stories of business people that outline their humbled beginnings but we rarely pay close attention to their ingenuity and their business instincts. Some of the most influential business people have started their careers by making smart choices and taking advantage of promising opportunities.
Take for example Kirk Kergorian, American self-made Investor with a net worth of $4.2 billion. He sold newspapers at 9 years old, at 14 quit school to follow a boxing career and during World War II flew missions for the Royal Air Force. He was a renowned gambler that later developed a career in property investment from buying 80 acres in Las Vegas for $960,000. The rent and eventual sale of the land made Kirk $9million.
Wang is the richest man in China, and the richest property tycoon in the world. Wang Jianlin’s working life began in the army, took a path through politics before he entered the world of real estate. He started working for the Dalian Wanda Group in 1992, and it took just a year for him to be made CEO.
By the end of 2015, the Dalian Wanda Group’s nationwide portfolio includes 133 Wanda Plazas and 84 hotels has total lettable area of 26.32 million square meters. “It is the only company in China to possess its own complete commercial real estate value chain, which spans commercial planning, hotel design and research, commercial property construction and commercial management subsidiaries”3.
In recent years he has used his wealth to branch out into entertainment. Mr Jianlin owns 20 percent of the Spanish football team Atletico Madrid, and has been investing billions in Hollywood – including purchase of AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion in 20124.
Despite humble beginnings, Lee Shau-Kee became the biggest real-estate tycoon in Hong Kong. After relocating from the Guangdong Province in China in 1948, he was afforded his big break when asked to redevelop the Shatin Hotel.
He would go on to co-found Sun Hung Kai Properties in 19636, which is still in operation today. Deciding to go it alone, he formed Henderson Development in 1973 – for which he is still the majority shareholder today – and its subsidiary Henderson Land Development three years later.
Mr Shau-Kee has also been an active player in the Chinese stock market, earning himself the nickname ‘Asia’s Master of Stock’7.
Donald Bren is the richest real estate tycoon in the US, with over 115 million square feet of property across the country (though mainly in California).
He grew up in similar surroundings, his father a successful real estate investor. Nevertheless, Bren’s success was hard-earned9. After working as a carpenter’s assistant on some of his father’s buildings, he attended the University of Washington before joining the marines.
Along with a group of investors, he bought the Irvine Company in 1997, which had been a ranching operation. He now owns the business entirely.
The firm has been praised for its philanthropy efforts. It has donated approximately 57,000 acres of property in Orange Country to conservation groups.
The Reuben brothers are of British-Indian origin, and have a number of interests in the property market.
However, neither entered the business world through real estate. David began by trading scrap metals, whilst Simon bought a carpet company in the UK11.
They began investing in property in the London area, including on streets such as Walton Street and King’s Road. However, their primary focus was still in metals – particularly their aluminium company based in Russia, Trans-World Metals.
This business was sold in 200012, and the Reuben brothers began to pay more attention to their real estate assets. They own properties in London’s West End district, while they also bought the debt of the Plaza Hotel in NYC for $800 million.
The lynchpin for each of these influential Tycoons is that they made investments that brought astonishing returns that facilitated their later careers in the business world.