Self-made may be somewhat of a misnomer in this case, as the saying “it takes money to make money” is very important in this industry – since starting out means that you need some serious capital to begin with. In any event it’s fair to say that these people (who also happen to be the wealthiest real estate moguls) took what they began with and multiplied it hundreds if not thousands of times over. All of them suffered set-backs throughout their careers, but all of them overcame these through business acumen and sheer relentlessness.
Thomas & Raymond Kwok & family - $20 Billion China
Walter, Thomas & Raymond Kwok inherited Sun Hung Kai Properties from their father in 1990 and continued to build on the foundation of wealth that had been their father’s legacy. Forbes Magazine recently reported that the combined family holdings amount to approximately 20 billion dollars, almost entirely through real estate related business.
It hasn’t all been fun and games though, as their eldest brother Walter stepped out of the family business after numerous personal set backs, such as being kidnapped and held for ransom and tension between his mistress and brothers. Self-made these brothers are not, but being the most successful property only (not diversified) tycoons makes them worth mentioning.
Lee Shau Kee - $19 Billion China
You just can’t seem to keep China out of the property game, and good for them. Affectionately known as Uncle 4, due to his being one of very few ultra successful forth born children in the world, this 83 year old should probably be number one on this list. As the founder and chairman of the Henderson Land Development Company (amongst others) he made his fortune solo, unlike the Kwoks’. A ridiculously shrewd businessman, he remains a relatively popular man and has donated over 20 million to the Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity.
Donald Bren - $12 Billion US
All round nice guy Donald Bren is the real deal it seems. At 79, he is one of the very few real estate icons who might claim that he was self-made. Born to Hollywood producer Milton Bren, he may have had access to some money, but certainly not the millions that the others did. He began his career in 1958 by taking out a $10,000 loan and building his first house in Newport Beach. Bren has led a life free from the spotlight, or controversy and considers himself a builder and planner, not a celebrity. He is a huge supporter of education and has been highly noted for his conservation efforts. He has donated hundreds of millions to his causes.
Donald Trump - $2.9 billion US
The Donald has had quite a colourful career and I don’t think the final chapter is anywhere near written. The Donald and his (generally unknown) siblings were each given some money by their father, only Donald turned it into a massive fortune – reminds me of a bible story somehow. Despite being a brilliant businessman, Trump has had his share of failures, but he always comes back stronger than ever. He may not be the most successful property tycoon in the bunch, but he just might be the most tenacious.