Yang Zhihui is no stranger to adversity. The Chinese tycoon, apart from making his fortune flipping real estate properties, has also been involved in the South Korean gambling industry, pushing through even during an economic war between the two countries he calls home. His claims to fame include the purchase of a Bombardier Global 6000 jet in 2013 and the sale of the casino seen in the James Bond film “Dr. No.” When China cut off tour packages to South Korea in March 2017, Zhihui found a new way to keep his high-roller clients happy—by putting them in the air.
Zhihui had purchased its former partner, Genting Singapore PLC, in November of 2016. Together they had built a $2.4-billion resort on the South Korean island of Jeju, called the Jeju Shinhwa Resort, which was a highly popular destination prior to China’s blockade last year. Not one to disappoint, Zhihui decided to put his jet to good use, and began flying high rollers to Jeju to legally bypass China’s rules.
Zhihui put the jet in the name of one of his companies, Landing International Development, Ltd. It soon became a lifeline between his clients and his Jeju resort, which only just opened in February. He asserts that it’s just used for business purposes, telling Bloomberg, “Free travelers are generally not affected, and they have higher spending power.”
Zhihui is the majority shareholder of Landing and is said to have a net worth of around $1.6 billion. Landing has doubled its revenue in the past two years, due in large part to the sale of Les Ambassadeurs, the casino seen in “Dr. No.” The casino went for $320 million.
With proceeds from the sale, Zhihui embarked on a mission to build the Jeju Shinhwa Resort. The resort is five times larger than the Disneyland in Tokyo, four hotels, a theme park, shopping malls, 40 restaurants, villas and the largest foreigners-only casino in South Korea. The resort has opened in stages since April 2017, with the casino finally being inaugurated this past February.
Having already proven to be able to overcome odds, it will be interesting to see what’s on Zhihui’s plate next. He hopes to build a casino in the Philippines, but given the recent anti-casino changes seen in the country, his plans might be in jeopardy. It could be interesting to see how he plans to pilot around Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s obstacles.