Asia

Meet the Hong Kong Billionaire Who Once Sold Peanuts to Survive

Hong Kong real estate and casino tycoon Lui Che Woo has built a massive conglomerate around a variety of industries including real estate, gambling, and hospitality.

A regular of Forbes’ billionaires lists, the self-made billionaire and chairman of K. Wah Group and Galaxy Entertainment is among Asia’s richest men with a net worth of $10.1 billion.

Despite his massive fortune, Lui still remembers when, as a young boy, he used to sell peanuts for a living. In a recent interview with Fortune, the 87-year-old tycoon revealed that he did not have much growing up. 

Having lived during the horrors of the Second World War, he witnessed people “starving to death,” with some even resorting to cannibalism.

“I saw much of the difficulties people faced during that time,” Lui was quoted as saying. “I remembered all this.”

The experience has contributed into his understanding of how important economic empowerment was. Lui said he wondered why the “Chinese people were mistreated by the Japanese.”

“They said, ‘You Chinese are poor and illiterate,’” he narrated. “I remember that in my heart, even up to this day.”

Lui Che Woo

Due to poverty, Lui dropped out of school in the sixth grade. He then sold peanuts and peanut brittle as a teenager to earn a living.

“During those sam nin ling bat goh yuet (referring to Japan’s 3 ½ years occupation of China), we didn’t go hungry,” he said. “And in the later stage, I could even make some money.”

After the war, Lui worked as a stock keeper at a car parts trading company where his uncle worked. When he was about 20 years old, he branched out by buying bulldozers from the auctioned leftover U.S. military equipment.

At the time Hong Kong’s land development business was beginning to boom, Lui Che Woo found and seized a huge opportunity at the time when the city “still relied on manual labor to flatten hills and reclaim land.” 

Over the years, Lui’s business grew, expanding toward a variety of industries, including construction materials, property development, and hotels. 

He considered himself lucky for being able to take advantage of the opportunity that was available then to him.

When he started accumulating significant wealth, Lui said he realized how “there were few opportunities for people to study. Why was that? They had no facilities, no campuses, no schools, no nothing.”

He said he began helping set up schools in China, totaling in hundreds over the years, and made donations to universities.

“I engage in philanthropy and donate money when and where I think is needed and right,” Lui explained. “That’s always been my intention.”

He then pointed out how technological advancements have made people neglect values that were “written clearly in religious principles.”

“How not to fight with one another. How to help one another whenever someone is down,” Lui said. “I want to remind society of how to do these simple things.”

Lui Che Woo ’s belief in the importance of world civilization, positive energy, and moral education is utmost refreshing and should serve as inspiration to many.

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