Born in Hubei province, Yan Zhi dropped out of school when he was 17 to take over his father’s job as a printer. The following year he published his first poems. In 1992 he became a journalist with a local newspaper before starting his own media agency. In a major coup he bought up space in the provincial papers and then persuaded 50 home appliance brands to market their products through him.
It wasn’t until 2003 that Yan made his first move into property, following his difficulties finding a new headquarters. As far as he knew a lot of his friends were facing the same problem. So in 2005 he embarked on Zall Development’s first project, No. 1 Enterprise Community. It was designed to house HQs for small and medium-sized enterprises and within two years more than 100 companies had moved in.
Watch out Yiwu
Yan’s dream is to build China’s biggest wholesale trading centre, returning Wuhan to its role of 500 years ago. North Hankou is his flagship project. Back in 2007 it was a rubbish dump in Wuhan’s northern suburbs but Yan has invested Rmb6 billion to build North Hankou International Trading Centre, covering 3 million square metres (for perspective, the vast Venetian Macau resort is a third of its size). He has focused on wholesale markets for items like shoes and clothes, and many firms have moved out of Wuhan’s old commercial centre Hanzhengjie to Yan’s new facility.
By the end of 2011, Zall Development reported that total revenues rose 218% to Rmb2.45 billion, while gross profits soared 387% to Rmb1.74 billion year-on-year.
In Yan’s view, Wuhan is well-positioned as China’s manufacturing heartland moves from the coast to the west. His prediction is that the Yangtze river will become an even more crucial artery and he has acquired a port operator to accompany his other investments in Wuhan.
Yan’s firm is listed in Hong Kong and his personal fortune is Rmb7.76 billion.
And to relax
“Some people like to go to the spa, or do their nails. I enjoy poems, that’s my hobby.”
So far Yan has published 18 books of his poetry.
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