Who’s Hu

Pan Sutong

Goldin Property

Pan Sutong w

The title of China’s tallest building changes hands quite frequently these days. But according to the People’s Daily, Tianjin’s Goldin Finance 117 took top spot last month. At 597 metres of structural height, Tianjin’s new giant claims to have overtaken Shanghai Tower (which stands at 632 metres, but with a main structure of only 580 metres) and now trails only Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in the global skyscraper stakes.

Goldin Finance 117 is the iconic heart of the new business district Pan Sutong is building on the outskirts of Tianjin. It won’t derive any rental income until it opens next year. But it seems to have enough of a presence to keep its owner close to the peak of the wealth pyramid.

To start with

Born in Guangdong in 1963, Pan was raised first by his grandmother, who died when he was 13. Then he was sent to California to live with his step-grandmother, returning to China four years later. As a high-school dropout, Pan worked as the driver of a Party official at his hometown Shaoguan. In 1993 he started his own business, making MP3 products and karaoke equipment under the Matsunichi brand. To promote his company he acquired a football team in 1996 and named it Matsunichi. He sold the club six years later but took his company public in Hong Kong via a backdoor listing, also with the faux-Japanese brand.

Big break

Pan’s consumer electronic business was successful, but not enough to make him mega rich. Things began to change in 2007, when his company acquired the property project in Tianjin where Goldin Finance 117 is now built. A year later he renamed his company Goldin Property to reflect the change in his core business.

Pan soon gained the image of a property tycoon who liked to flaunt his wealth. For instance, he loves horse racing in Hong Kong, an expensive hobby that allows him to rub shoulders with the territory’s high society. He invests in Chinese art and enjoys fine wine (launching the glossy Le Pan magazine about the industry this year). British princes William and Harry have faced off at Goldin’s charity polo matches in Gloucestershire, while Pan has built a vast new polo club of his own as part of a new business district outside Tianjin.

Need to know

This has been a rollercoaster year for the tycoon. The share price of Goldin Property went on a spectacular rise earlier this year, spiking 400% in the three months to May, with Goldin’s market value touching HK$100 billion ($12.8 billion). It has since dwindled to HK$27 billion, although Pan says he is unfazed by the plunge. He may take comfort from Forbes’ data, which has his net worth still at $12 billion.

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