Born in a poor family in the countryside outside Lianjiang, a small town in Fujian province, Huang Rulun started out as a street vendor when China’s reform period began.
In 1986 Huang moved to the Philippines where he became a successful trader (fuller details of this period are sketchy). Returning to China at 40, he set up Fuzhou Golden Resource Property Corporation. His first project, Guotai Tower, built in cooperation with the Fuzhou local government was a hit, timed well with southern China’s commercial property boom in the early 1990s. In the next three years, Huang built more commercial properties but started projects in the residential market too. Again it was a timely strategy, as new restrictions on commercial development began to bite in 1994. Unlike some of his rivals, Huang was more conservative in his borrowing. “Use your own capital, don’t use too much outside financing – it can make you greedy and aggressive,” he told staff.
Expanding to Beijing
In 1998 Huang shifted focus to Beijing, having become the largest private developer in Fuzhou. After testing the market with his Shiji Jiayuan housing development, he caused a stir with the Century City project, investing Rmb17 billion (it featured more than 3 million square metres of floorspace). From 2000 to 2003, Century City ranked as Beijing’s top property project by sales. But Huang kept to his old mantra on financing, telling Global Entrepreneur in 2003 that he “didn’t borrow even one penny from the banks”. Another reason for his success? Century City targeted the middle market at a time when Beijing’s middle-class was starting to enjoy greater consumption power.
Back to the office
Recalling his time in the Philippines, Huang was struck that Manila had more than 10 shopping malls. He wanted to build similar complexes in Beijing too, and in 2004 he completed Beijing Golden Resource Shopping Mall, one of the biggest new shopping venues in China. It was built next to Century City, bringing in more than 20,000 residents as potential shoppers.
Huang has replicated the model in Kunming, Changsha, Guiyang and Hefei.
Huang is said to have donated more than Rmb4 billion to charities and good causes in the past 20 years. He once quipped: “Rmb18,000 a month is more than enough for me.” But he survives on a bit more than that, ranking 46th on Hurun’s rich list in 2012 with a fortune of Rmb15 billion.
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