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Chinese And Hong Kong Billionaires On Top As Global Real Estate Fortunes Surge $151 Billion

The world’s real estate billionaires collectively added $151 billion to their fortunes in the past year, driven by a spike in Asian markets, according to the 2021 Forbes Billionaires rankings. The 215 real estate moguls have a combined net worth of more than $800 billion and represent about 8% of the total individuals on the list. Only 30 saw a net worth drop over the last year. 

The six richest are all citizens of either China or Hong Kong, including Hong Kong’s Lee Shau-kee, 93, the world’s richest real estate tycoon, with a $31.7 billion fortune. Lee controls publicly traded Henderson Land Development, which builds residential properties and marquee commercial projects, like the World Financial Center in Beijing and the International Finance Centre complex in Hong Kong. 

The biggest jump from last year went to China’s Zuo Hui, who added $13.3 billion. He was worth $15.5 billion on March 6, when the annual ranking was finalized. Zuo chairs publicly traded KE Holdings, the parent company of Lianjia, which he founded in 2001 and built into China’s largest real estate brokerage firm, with operations in 28 cities and almost 150,000 brokers.

Zuo was at the leading edge of a boom for Asian real estate billionaires, who claim 15 of the top 20 spots on the Forbes ranking, one more than last year.

Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren is one of only two U.S. billionaires to rank among real estate’s 20 richest people. Bren’s $15.3 billion fortune represents a $200 million drop from 2020, as the pandemic ate away valuations across the country. Irvine controls more than 125 million square feet of property, much of it in Southern California. Bren is joined by Sun Hongbin, a U.S. citizen who founded Chinese developer Sunac China Holdings; he ticked up by $100 million to $9.3 billion.

Germany’s Alexander Otto was the highest-ranking European billionaire to land in the top 20. Otto’s fortune, which includes commercial investments in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and New York, rose almost $7 billion over the past year.   

Rising values brought a handful of new billionaires to the list—though none in the top 20—including Zillow cofounders Richard Barton ($2.2 billion) and Lloyd Frink ($1.4 billion), both from the U.S., where a white-hot residential market boosted the company’s shares nearly three-fold in the 12 months ending March 6. 

#1 | Lee Shau Kee

Hong Kong

NET WORTH: $31.7 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +12.8%)

#2 | Yang Huiyan & family


NET WORTH: $29.6 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +45.8%)

#3 | Hui Ka Yan


NET WORTH: $27.7 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +27.1%)

#4 | Wu Yajun


NET WORTH: $18.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +52.5%)

#5 | Peter Woo

Hong Kong

NET WORTH: $18 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +56.5%)

#6 | Zuo Hui


NET WORTH: $15.5 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +604.5%)

#7 | Donald Bren

United States

NET WORTH: $15.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: -1.3%)

#8 | Wang Jianlin


NET WORTH: $14.8 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +5.7%)

#9 | Kwong Siu-hing

Hong Kong

NET WORTH: $14.7 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +23.5%)

#10 | Joseph Lau

Hong Kong

NET WORTH: $13.6 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: -17.1%)

#11 | Robert & Philip Ng


NET WORTH: $13.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +22%)

#12 | Alexander Otto


NET WORTH: $11.8 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +136%)

#13 | Harry Triguboff


NET WORTH: $11.2 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +77.8%)

#14 | Cai Kui


NET WORTH: $10.4 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +50.7%)

#15 | Hui Wing Mau

Hong Kong

NET WORTH: $10.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +8.4%)

#16 (tie) | Ian & Richard Livingstone

United Kingdom

NET WORTH: $9.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +45.3%)

#16 (tie) | Sun Hongbin

United States

NET WORTH: $9.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +1.1%)

#18 | Chan Tan Ching-fen

Hong Kong

NET WORTH: $8.8 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +486.7%)

#19 | Kushal Pal Singh


NET WORTH: $8.3 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +124.3%)

#20 | Kei Hoi Pang


NET WORTH: $7.8 billion (1-YEAR CHANGE: +20%)

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