Xu Rongmao was born in 1950 in Fujian province. His father graduated from a medical college and his mother was an obstetrician. During the Cultural Revolution, Xu was sent to the countryside to be a barefoot doctor. Then he moved to Hong Kong in the 1970s and tried to become a pharmacist, specialising in Chinese traditional medicine. However, Xu spoke only Mandarin and the Minnan dialect, so had problems understanding his Cantonese-speaking clients. He quit, and began working in a textile factory.
Xu began speculating in Hong Kong stocks, and accumulated savings that allowed him to open a garment business, with production in China.
Bricks and mortar…
According to an interview in the Minnan Economic Weekly, 1989 was a turning point for Xu. He began experimenting with real estate in his hometown, Shishi. Unlike the garment business he found it a much more satisfying experience. “Building blocks of magnificent buildings both beautifies the city and improves people’s lives. That gives me pleasure and career satisfaction.” He became the owner of China’s first privately-owned three star hotel – until 1988 this was forbidden by government regulations. In 1991 he took his family to Australia and furthered his property experience in Sydney and Darwin. In 1993 he returned to China and built a tourist resort on Wuyi Mountain.
In 1995 new real estate rules hit Beijing’s property developers and led to fragile market conditions. Xu sensed an opportunity and began developing high grade apartments in the capital such as Zhizhu Garden and Scenic Park. He soon accounted for a third of the high grade residential market. And in 2000 he began to replicate his success in Shanghai. He took control of the faltering Shanghai Wanxiang Group – getting 140,000 square metres of prime CBD land and a backdoor listing in the process. Finally, his Shimao Group emerged into the public eye.
Need to know
Shimao is now one of China’s most successful property firms with 28 projects distributed across 20 cities. Its highly popular Riviera Garden project in Shanghai has won numerous awards for its combination of natural ecology, garden landscaping and modern architecture.
The 800,000 square metre riverside development is divided into six themed parks: Chinese-styled Suzhou Garden, US-styled Hawaii Beach, German-styled Swan Lake, English-styled Great Lawn, French-styled Maze Garden and Olympic Games Garden. Shimao Property listed in Hong Kong in 2006 further raising the property group’s international profile.
Wang ranks third on the Hurun list with a net worth of Rmb32 billion.
In his own words
“I am nothing special. I just focus more on what I’m doing, and pay more attention to detail.”
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