Millionaire property magnates Michael and John Chow have built an empire in New Zealand that is currently valued at an estimated $400 million.
The road to such fortune has not been easy for the Chow brothers who were born and initially raised in Hong Kong. Together, they have made some controversial decisions along the way after incurring some losses when they started their journey.
Back in 1999, the siblings first became partners on a short-lived fried chicken restaurant called Chicken Palace on the ground floor of their building in the New Zealand capital of Wellington.
The venture, which lasted for only 6 months, would soon be followed by an attempt to convert the property into a multi-level restaurant facility and hotel. That too did not go as planned and tore a hole in their pockets, causing them to lose around $100,000.
To sustain their business and pay off some debts, the brothers’ parents sold their Hutt Valley home. For about a year, the entire family lived on the first floor of their Courtenay Place property.
Looking back, 46-year-old John considers it to be one of the worst times in his life.
“I was reluctant to face the real world. After I finished work I was hiding in my room and Michael at the time was standing up and looking after everything,” John told the New Zealand Herald in an interview. “Everything was on his shoulders.”
A spontaneous decision to open a strip club, however, would turn their fortunes around.
“Every second day we’re in the paper. People object, the whole Courtenay Place object,” John told Stuff. “We were young and weren’t sure if we’d be successful, but we’ve got not much option.”
The brothers claimed that two years after opening Mermaids strip club, they have doubled their assets. Currently, their empire has now grown to include commercial property, hotels and strip clubs with an estimated $400 million combined value.
In their interview with the Herald, the Chow brothers were not too keen on providing many details, especially on how they got started in the sex industry. Michael, however, did reveal that a prospective tenant gave them the idea which would later grow into a profitable venture in the brothel industry. He reportedly did not offer further details.
The brothers pointed out that while the adult entertainment side of their business is at the very foundation of their empire, it merely accounts for about 10-15% of their annual revenue.
You can watch the full interview below: