Property values are on the rise… and so too are the bank balances of the world’s richest real estate investors. With the global financial crisis of the mid-noughties now but a distant memory, it seems real estate is the business to be in if you want to make some big bucks, fast. Both commercial and residential properties are faring better than ever before, with global office rents and private property values increasing on a year on year basis. The vast majority of the sector’s wealth lies in the pockets of an elite group of property moguls from the Asia -Pacific nations, with just a few Westerners thrown in for good measure. Find out who’s been making the most from the booming property market with our rundown of the world’s richest real estate investors.
20.Richard Lefrak – $4.2 Billion
73-year-old Richard Lefrak joined his family’s real estate business, LeFrak, after graduating cum laude from Amherst College in 1968. In 1975, he was appointed the president of the company, a position he held until he was elected CEO and chairman on the death of his father, Samuel L. LeFrak, in 2003. As well as being responsible for the construction of Newport, an exclusive 600-acre neighborhood in New Jersey, Lefrak can claim several high-end properties in Beverley Hills and Miami to his name, including a 12-story office building on Hollywood Boulevard. Considered one of the US’s most influential real estate investors, Lefrak is currently estimated to be worth $4.2 Billion.
19. Pan Sutong – $5.2 Billion
Chinese born business mogul Pan Sutong moved to the US at the age of 13. After completing his education, he made the move to Hong Kong, which has been his primary residence ever since. In addition to his extensive property portfolio (which includes in its mix the flagship Goldin Metropolitan in Tianjin), Sutong has invested in everything from consumer electronics to wine to financial services. According to the latest estimates, the businessman is currently worth $5.2 billion.
18. Chan Laiwa & Family – $5.8 Billion
Philanthropist and real estate developer Chan Laiwa makes her entrance at number 18. As the owner of the Fu Wah International Group, Laiwa sits at the helm of one of China’s largest real estate developers. The group’s impressive property portfolio includes the likes of Jinbao Tower, the Regent Building and the Beijing Hong Kong Jockey Club in Beijing, as well as numerous high-end hotels in Australia and New Zealand. As one of only 19 self-made female billionaires in the world, Laiwa’s global fame and wealth has allowed her to both serve as one of the cultural diplomats of China and become one of the country’s most prolific philanthropists.
17. Kwee Brother– $5.9 Billion
The four Kwee brothers (Kwee Liong Keng, Kwee Liong Tek, Kwee Liong Seen and Kwee Liong Phing) collectively own Pontiac Land, a development company that can claim some of Singapore’s most luxurious hotels (including Regent Singapore, Ritz-Carlton Millenia, the Conrad Centennial Singapore, and The Capella Singapore) and office blocks to its name. In recent years, they’ve expanded their growing empire to include a 72-story tower beside the Museum of Modern Art in NYC which, according to Forbes, is home to penthouses worth more than $70 million apiece. The family’s combined wealth currently stands at around $5.9 billion.
16. Charles Cadogan – $7 Billion
British billionaire Charles Cadogan began his career as a merchant banker but made his fortune as the man responsible for redeveloping Sloane Street in London into the city’s most exclusive retail sites. Along with his family, Cadogan owns vast swaths of the capital’s most desirable stretches of real estate (including considerable portions of Chelsea and Knightsbridge), giving him the considerable net worth of $7 billion.
15. Stephen Ross – $7.6 Billion
Stephen Ross may have trained as a tax adviser, but it was his mid-career transition into property development that really made his fortunes. In addition to his business interests (which includes a property portfolio worth over $60 billion, as well as ownership of the Miami Dolphins and stakes in Related Group, Equinox Fitness, and SoulCycle), Ross is a noted philanthropist, having donated more than $378 million to his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
14. Stanley Kroenke – $9.7 Billion
Businessman and entrepreneur Stanley Kroenke founded the Kroenke Group in 1983, and THF Realty, an independent real estate development company, in 1993. THF’s portfolio (which consists largely of retail shopping centers) is now worth more than $2 billion. In addition to his extensive investments in properties, Kroenke has also dabbled in various other business ventures, including ownership of a winery in Napa Valley called Screaming Eagle, stakes in numerous working ranches, and ownership of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, the holding company of English Premier League football club Arsenal, the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, Denver Nuggets of the NBA, Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League, and the Los Angeles Gladiators of the Overwatch League. As per the latest estimates, the combined sum of his various investments amounts to a net worth of $9.7 billion.
13. Hui Wing Mau – $10.2B
With a net worth of $10.2 billion, Hui Wing Mau makes his entrance at number 13. As chair of the Hong Kong-listed real estate group Shimao Property Holding, Hui’s extensive property portfolio extends over 80 Chinese citifies. Factor in his earnings from his major stake in Mason Financial Holdings, and it’s understandable how the 69-year-old billionaire achieved his position as the 22nd richest person in China.
12. Harry Triguboff – $10.3 Billion
Australia’s second-richest person (and the world’s 11th richest real estate investor), Harry Triguboff, made his billions by changing the architectural landscape of Sydney. Traditionally built around freestanding homes, Triguboff introduced the concept of high density “apartment living”, radically changing the city’s interior and providing a surplus of affordable housing options for its ever-growing population. Today, Triguboff has more than 75,000 apartments to his name, an achievement that’s earned him the nickname of “High Rise Harry” and an estimated net worth of $10.3 billion.
11. Peter Woo – $10.4 Billion
Peter Woo’s considerable net worth of $10.4 billion can be traced to his career as chair of the property developer Wheelock & Co. along with its subsidiary, Wharf Holdings. The group owns investments in multiple properties (including the famous Harbour City and Times Square in Hong Kong) and has controlling interests in companies such as i-Cable Communications, Wharf New T&T, Modern Terminals Limited and Marco Polo Hotels. Woo stepped down as Chair in 2017 but continues to serve on the advisory boards of numerous Fortune 500 companies and retains full control of the luxury retail group LCJG.
10. Robert and Philip Ng – $12.1 Billion
Together, brothers Robert and Philip Ng hold a combined net worth of $12.1 billion. Their fortune can be traced to the Far East Organization, Singapore’s largest private landlord and property developer. The company was founded by their father Ng Teng Fong but passed into their hands on his death. The duo has continued to expand the empire, launching Far East Hospitality, Singapore’s largest hospitality portfolio by asset value according to Must Share News, in 2012. The Ng’s currently rank as the 2nd richest people in Singapore, and the 112th richest in the world.
9. Hugh Grosvenor – $13 Billion
Following the death of his father, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, Hugh Grosvenor inherited the family’s property business, a global empire that Forbes estimates to have over $15 billion in assets under management. He also inherited his father’s value of $13 billion, turning him into one of the UK’s richest people under 30 overnight.
8. Joseph Lau – $16.1 Billion
Joseph Lau’s wealth comes from his 61% stake in Chinese Estates Holdings, a leading Chinese investment holding company whose business activities cover, amongst other things, property rental; money lending, and loan financing. In 2014, Lau and his business partner Steven Lo were found guilty of bribery and money laundering; despite denying the charges, both were eventually found guilty. Lau was sentenced to five years and three months in prison; after his appeal was denied, he fled the country and is currently living as a fugitive in Macau (which conveniently doesn’t have an extradition agreement with China).
7. Thomas and Raymond Kwok – $16.5 Billion
As the sons of Kwok Tak Seng, the founder of SHK Properties (Hong Kong’s largest real estate developer), and his wife Kwong Siu-Hing, Thomas and Raymond Kwok, along with their brother Walter, inherited the family business on their father’s death in 1990. After a family feud in 2008, Walter was ousted, leaving the company in the sole ownership of Thomas and Raymond. With a portfolio that covers such significant properties as the International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper, the brothers have achieved a joint net worth of $16.5 billion.
6. Donald Bren – $17 Billion
As chairman and sole owner of the Irvine Company, a US real estate investment company, Donald Bren is worth the considerable sum of $17 billion. Described by OC Weekly as a man who “wields more power than Howard Hughes ever did, probably as much as any man in America over a concentrated region—determining not only how people live and shop but who governs them”, Bren, who own more than 120,000,000 ft.of real estate in California, including numerous hotels, marinas, golf courses, 550 office buildings, 120+ apartment complexes and over 40 shopping centers, is credited with shaping Orange County into what it is today.
5. David and Simon Reuben – $18 Billion
British businessmen and philanthropists David and Simon Reuben are together worth the considerable sum of $18 billion. Their business ventures began in earnest in the early 1990s, when the brothers invested in the Russian metal markets. In the early 2000s, changes in the Russian market led them to sell their Russian assets and reinvest in the UK property market. They’ve since acquired numerous notable properties (predominately in the capital), including Millbank Tower; the John Lewis Partnership headquarters in Victoria; the American Express offices in Victoria; Carlton House SW1; Academy House on Sackville Street; Connaught House on Berkeley Square; Market Towers; the London Primark store on Oxford Street; Sloane Street shops; and Cambridge House, the former premises of the Naval and Military Club. The brother’s wealth has increased exponentially over the past decade, and they now rank as Britain’s 2nd richest family.
4. Wang Jianlin – $20.2 Billion
With over 260 plazas in China, Dalian Wanda Group ranks as the largest commercial real estate developer in China, and its chairman, Wang Jianlin, as the fourth richest person in China. Although he’s scaled back his activities in recent years, Jianlin still holds the mammoth net worth of $20.2 Billion.
3. Yang Huiyan – $23.4 Billion
The richest woman to make our list is Yang Huiyan. The Chinese billionaire’s wealth derives from her 57% stake in the real estate developer Country Garden Holdings, which she inherited on the death of her father, Yeung Kwok Keung, in 2007. In addition to her activities with the property group, Yang serves as the chair of the education company, Bright Scholar Education Holdings, the largest, publicly owned operator of international and bilingual K-12 schools in China. Thanks to her net worth of $23.4 billion, Yang holds the title of the richest woman in Asia.
2. Hui Ka Yan – $26.8B
Narrowly missing out on a place at the top of our leaderboard is Hui Ka Yan, a businessman who Forbes ranks as the 3rd richest person in China, and the 22nd richest person in the world. Hui’s extensive wealth comes courtesy of his position as chairman of Evergrande Group, one of China’s biggest and most profitable real estate groups. Hui founded the group in 1996, specializing in buying up cheap properties in developing markets and then selling them on for a profit. The group now has more than 800 projects in over 280 cities, as well as the majority of Guangzhou Evergrande, one of China’s most successful soccer teams.
1. Lee Shau Kee – $28.6 Billion
Rounding off our list is Lee Shau Kee, a 91-year-old real estate magnate and philanthropist who ranks as the 2nd richest man in Hong Kong, and the 29th richest person in the world. Along with co-founding the multibillion-dollar property developer Sun Hung Kai with Kwok Tak-Seng, he also founded Henderson Land Development, a property giant whose massive property portfolio constitutes the majority of his mammoth $28.6 billion net worth.