Recently, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government established an ultra-luxurious Chief Executive Advisory Group. Among the 34 consultants are Wu Guangzheng, the son-in-law of shipping tycoon Pao Yu-gang, Li Zeju, the eldest son of Li Ka-shing, Cai Chongxin, the executive vice chairman of Alibaba, Michael Spence, the Nobel laureate in economics… and Sheng Zhiwen, who owns a nightclub
From the chief executive to the young and Dangerous, he has a thorough understanding of Hong Kong
Standing at the top of Hong Kong’s politics and business is already the norm for Sheng Zhiwen. In 2003, Sheng Zhiwen received a call from Tung Chee-hwa, the then chief executive of Hong Kong, inviting him to be the chairman of Hong Kong Ocean Park. However, Sheng Zhiwen, who received the call from the chief executive, not only did not agree, but also refused.
”I said you are crazy. I am a businessman. I have never run a theme park, and I don’t know how to run a theme park.” He did not expect that after that, Dong Chee-hwa called him 6 times in a row. In Hong Kong, there are very few people who can make Dong Chee-hwa take the initiative to make 6 phone calls, and Sheng Zhiwen is one of them. The reason why Tung Chee-hwa strongly invites him is because Lan Kwai Fong created by Sheng Zhiwen is too successful.
Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s nightlife landmark and a famous tourist check-in place. At present, Zhiwen Sheng still serves as the chairman of the board of directors of Lan Kwai Fong Group, and 70% of the property rights in the block are in his hands.
This is a business “wizard” who “knows all the buttons that trigger people’s passions.” After the sixth phone call, Sheng Zhiwen still did not take over as the chairman of Ocean Park, but only agreed to Dong Chee-hwa to go to Ocean Park to have a look. “I’m really embarrassed to refute his face again.” After going around Ocean Park for a field trip, he took the initiative to call Dong Chee-hwa and asked if he didn’t take over, would there be another candidate? The chief executive told him that he might also consider the former Chief Secretary for Administration Xu Shiren. “Xu Shiren? Then you should give me the Ocean Park, or close it.”
Sheng Zhiwen joked and took over the Ocean Park very confidently. Since then, he has served as the chairman of Ocean Park for 10 years in one breath, beating Hong Kong Disneyland and winning the “World’s Best Theme Park” award, making it truly the light of Hong Kong. What is commendable is that for 10 years, he has not received a penny from Ocean Park.
In Hong Kong, Sheng Zhiwen is a well-known Jewish old man. Not only does he have the ability to make the chief executive call six times to invite him, but he is also a “happy maker” who has mastered the traffic codes of all Hong Kong. At the carnival in Lan Kwai Fong, he would wear black stockings, white high heels, a blue tight skirt, and a huge blue feather on his head, pretending to be a hot dancer, a face-changing master, Santa Claus, etc. hot topic.
In order to promote the jellyfish aquarium in Ocean Park, he will also go into battle in person, wearing a powder blue one-piece suit and pretending to be a jellyfish to attract attention. It is difficult for China to find a second place for such an entertaining business tycoon. In addition, Sheng Zhiwen also has a deep understanding of the three religions and nine streams in Hong Kong.
In the 1980s, Lan Kwai Fong quickly became popular after it opened, and the gangsters came here after hearing the news. During that time, many people approached Sheng Zhiwen and expressed their willingness to pay two or three times the rent to rent his bar, but he refused. He didn’t want the underworld to smash the signboard of Lan Kwai Fong. However, in Hong Kong where the “Hongxing East Star” is deeply rooted, Lan Kwai Fong has been standing for 40 years. It needs not only courage, but also the wisdom of the helmsman. “Contacting people in the underworld requires skills, and you have to know how to deal with them.” In
2022, “Las Vegas gambling king” Stephen Wynn invited Sheng Zhiwen to serve as the non-executive chairman of the Wynn Macau board of directors. In September of that year, in the new round of gaming license bidding in Macau, Wynn Macau grabbed the first prize the day before. The status of this Jewish Hong Kong tycoon in the gambling arena has revealed the tip of the iceberg.
Hong Kong has also given enough respect to Sheng Zhiwen. He became a Justice of the Peace in Hong Kong and was awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal and the Gold Bauhinia Star. As a Jewish Hong Kong citizen, he also actively participated in public affairs in Hong Kong, and even served as an advisor to the Hong Kong New Democratic Party. He was once regarded as a “future star” in Hong Kong’s political circles. From the chief executive to the young and Dangerous, from economy, culture to politics, Sheng Zhiwen, who is rooted in Hong Kong, has a thorough understanding of the city. In fact, for a Jewish businessman, if he only wants to make money, he doesn’t have to get involved so deeply.
Looking at the rich people who “run” out, Sheng Zhiwen has a better choice, and he doesn’t have to bear the pressure of any national sentiment. Only when you truly have deep feelings for a piece of land can you cultivate and pay so deeply.
The billionaire who squeezed onto the green train
In 1969, 20-year-old Sheng Zhiwen came to Hong Kong. Not long after, he told his mother, “I’m not going back.” He may have had a premonition that in the next half a century, most of his life would be inseparable from this city.
”Hong Kong people have the spirit of fighting hard and winning. I like it very much. This is very consistent with my philosophy of life.”
Sheng Zhiwen, who was born in Germany in 1949, is indeed very hardworking. His father died when he was 7 years old, and he immigrated to Canada with his mother, and his life was once quite difficult. Such a family background has thoroughly inspired the business talent in Sheng Zhiwen’s Jewish blood. At the age of 10, Sheng Zhiwen began to deliver newspapers in the streets and alleys; at the age of 12, he worked as a handyman in a steak shop on weekends, cleaning the table and cleaning the tableware, and he could earn 60 dollars a week. Weekly wages are only $35. At the age of 16, Sheng Zhiwen bought a Chevrolet convertible and became the only student in the school who had his own car. At the age of 17, Sheng Zhiwen, who dropped out of school, walked into the largest clothing company in Canada at that time, pretending to be 22 years old, and successfully applied for a salesman.
Sheng Zhiwen, who has a unique vision, soon discovered the mystery of the clothing business, decided to start his own business, and established an imported women’s sweater company, which purchased ready-made garments from Hong Kong and resold them to the North American market. At the age of 19, Sheng Zhiwen earned his first $1 million. However, the income tax in Canada was as high as 50%, which hit the young Zhiwen Sheng very much. He set his sights on Hong Kong, where the tax rate is only 15%.
Hong Kong was able to attract talents like Sheng Zhiwen because of its unique business environment. As soon as Sheng Zhiwen became an adult, he traveled thousands of miles to take root in Hong Kong, relying on his fighting spirit and long-term vision. From the counterattack of a poor boy to become a billionaire, the big era and personal struggle are indispensable prerequisites.
In Hong Kong, Sheng Zhiwen quickly rose from his old clothing industry. The 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of Hong Kong’s textile and garment industry. Sheng Zhiwen registered his own clothing brand Colby, which specializes in exporting mid-to-high-end fashion to North America and Europe. When he was in Canada, Sheng Zhiwen realized the advantages of low cost, hardworking labor and continuous improvement of quality in Chinese garment factories.
Therefore, in 1979, at the beginning of the reform and opening up, Sheng Zhiwen rushed to the mainland to find his own garment factory.
At that time, the Guangzhou-Kowloon through train, which had been suspended for 30 years, had just resumed, and it was hard to find a ticket.
Sheng Zhiwen bought a train ticket from the black market, squeezed onto the green leather train, sat on a hard seat for 14 hours, walked directly from Hong Kong to Hunan, and set up his own office in the mainland. At that time, 30-year-old Sheng Zhiwen was already a rich man worth over 100 million. Decades later, Sheng Zhiwen still remembers the hard green leather seats on the train and the chef’s black apron.
This is Sheng Zhiwen, he can let go of his figure, truly integrate into a country and region, integrate into different groups of people, and find the most resonant place behind different cultures. Under such a situation, the young Sheng Zhiwen was deeply attracted by the China in front of him: “Construction is everywhere, everyone is full of motivation, and they are all working hard. I fell in love with China at that time.” I saw the kind of spirit that I admired.
Spiritual fit is the basis for anyone to find a sense of belonging, and Sheng Zhiwen is no exception. Fortunately, Sheng Zhiwen found a compatible spirit in Hong Kong and mainland China, rooted in Hong Kong and backed by the mainland, and his clothing company is getting bigger and bigger. In 2000, Sheng Zhiwen sold the company to Li & Fung Group and received 2.2 billion Hong Kong dollars at one time.
He has more important things to do! As long as it can make Hong Kong better, I will do it! The more important thing is to concentrate on running Lan Kwai Fong. In fact, Lan Kwai Fong was just an unintentional work by Sheng Zhiwen at the beginning.
In the 1980s, Sheng Zhiwen, who gained a firm foothold in Hong Kong, often heard complaints from business partners that all activities in Hong Kong had to be held in hotels, and there were no decent entertainment venues, which was boring and inconvenient. Sheng Zhiwen decided to solve this problem by himself.
In a sloping alley across the street from Queen’s Road in Central Hong Kong, he opened a western-style restaurant, named California. After the opening, the business was booming, and Sheng Zhiwen, who had a keen business sense, realized the opportunity and decisively increased investment. Adhering to the concept of making everyone happy, he built restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues, and named it “Lan Kwai Fong”.
The narrow and dirty alleys at the beginning have been reborn, and every night is full of feasting, bustling and star-studded. “Faye Wong has just started, and she often comes to Lan Kwai Fong; Chen Baiqiang comes here almost every day, and used to sleep in Lan Kwai Fong; and Michelle Yeoh, Lan Kwai Fong grew up with her, and she used to sit in the back seat… …” Introducing the celebrity stories that happened in Lan Kwai Fong, Sheng Zhiwen is very familiar. However, it is hard to believe that Sheng Zhiwen, who has made countless people stay drunk, does not drink at all, and often uses mineral water instead of alcohol in bars. Every morning, he insists on running and exercising, rarely falling behind. He has always been dressed in a white shirt with a stand collar, a black jacket, and no tie, which has remained unchanged for decades. In his mind, it is more about business and the future. Sheng Zhiwen, who devoted himself to managing Lan Kwai Fong, soon set his sights on the mainland again.
He believes that the lifestyle represented by Lan Kwai Fong will also happen in mainland China after the reform and opening up. In 2000, he took over the poorly managed Park 97 in Shanghai, turning a stone into gold. After opening, stars, foreigners, and beauties gathered. After leaving office, Clinton came to China and had two meals at this restaurant. This is just Sheng Zhiwen’s small test in the mainland. In December 2010, Lan Kwai Fong Chengdu Fashion District officially opened. Today, it has become one of the landmarks of Chengdu’s nightlife, with a five-fold increase in performance in 12 years. In March this year, Lan Kwai Fong and Haiya Group signed a national strategic cooperation agreement, Hong Kong “Lan Kwai Fong” will fully enter the mainland.
Sheng Zhiwen, who took root in Hong Kong and embraced the mainland, has already become a billionaire with a net worth of tens of billions. However, besides making money, many things have become more important in Sheng Zhiwen’s eyes. “As long as it can make Hong Kong better, as long as I can do it, I will do it.” Sheng Zhiwen understands better than anyone else that only when Hong Kong is better and China is better, business will be good and the future will be good. This is also the cognitive basis for his final decision to take over Ocean Park with zero salary and across borders.
Under the impact of the Asian financial crisis and SARS at that time, Ocean Park was struggling and had become a hot potato. Therefore, there were six phone invitations from Tung Chee-hwa later. Sheng Zhiwen said that he is more proud to be in charge of Ocean Park than to create Lan Kwai Fong. In 2007, Ocean Park surpassed Hong Kong Disneyland in one fell swoop, and Sheng Zhiwen was promoted to “Mickey Mouse Killer”; in 2012, the number of visitors to Ocean Park reached 7 million, and won the World’s Best Theme Park Award in one fell swoop.
”I spent a lot of time for Ocean Park, and I am very happy to do it, because it can make tourists happy, and it is also something that makes all Hong Kong people feel proud and face.” In 2019, the 70th anniversary of the National Day, Sheng Zhiwen was invited to Beijing to participate in the celebration. Standing in the viewing area, he was so excited that tears filled his eyes, because this was the country’s great affirmation of him. In 2021, Sheng Zhiwen will run for the seventh Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
”The central government has perfected the electoral system. It should be a good thing if there is a foreign face at this time. I am what they call ‘boiled eggs with white on the outside and yellow on the inside’, not ‘banana man’.” Despite losing, Sheng Zhiwen still feels that participating in the Legislative Council election is an honor in itself. Having such awareness is because Sheng Zhiwen really regards himself as a Hongkonger. The same is true.
Look east and be determined to be Chinese
One day in 2008, the Canadian Immigration Service received an application that shocked them. Allan Zeman (Zheng Zhiwen), a well-known Jewish rich man in the country, proposed to renounce his Canadian citizenship, and he had rejected the US’s naturalization invitation many times before. He wants to become a Chinese and give up the Canadian-American dual citizenship that many people dream of.
Sheng Zhiwen spent 8 months persuading his family to insist on naturalization. “I have spent most of my life in the Mainland and Hong Kong, and I call Hong Kong my home. My children have grown up here, and I feel that I am Chinese and have a strong sense of belonging.” Into Sheng Zhiwen in Langui Many people would think that they walked into a Chinese cultural exhibition hall in the office of Fang California Building. What catches the eye is not office supplies, but a variety of Chinese pottery, ceramic sculptures, ink paintings, and many rural photographs rich in Chinese local culture. Sheng Zhiwen bought these from various places, and he liked them very much. “I love Hong Kong and China. There is great power in this land.” In fact, Sheng Zhiwen, who has a keen sense of business, has questioned China’s development plan twice, but each time China brought him is surprise.
Back then, standing in the fields of Shenzhen, when Sheng Zhiwen heard the chief designer’s plan that “this place will become a special economic zone”, his thought was “does this person know what he is talking about?” Later, he found that this person was not only right, but also farsighted. The second time, Premier Zhu pointed to Pudong, saying that it will become the core financial district of Shanghai. He was there too, and the thought in his mind was: Does he know what he’s talking about? This is obviously a field at a glance. China’s tremendous development has even exceeded the expectations of Sheng Zhiwen, who is always optimistic.
Sheng Zhiwen, who was “really fragrant”, was very proud of mentioning the scene of his own misjudgment twice. “I participated in it and was one of the witnesses.” However, not everyone has his vision. One day before Hong Kong’s return, Sheng Zhiwen had a heated argument with his friend, “the last Hong Kong governor” Patten. Patten still looks at China through the eyes of the old colonial era. There were many such people at that time.
On the evening of June 30, 1997, a grand party celebrating the return of Hong Kong was held in Lan Kwai Fong. A group of foreign media surrounded Sheng Zhiwen, hoping to ask some bad words about China. His answer was: “Now is a very good opportunity to progress together with New China!” In fact, Sheng Zhiwen, who is the same age as New China, has struggled and grown with China and practiced it himself. It is not surprising that the media is higher and sees farther. “I have experienced and seen many people immigrating to Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, etc., but after two years, I saw many people returning to Hong Kong.” Regarding the future of Hong Kong, Sheng Zhiwen believes that in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area .
The entire Greater Bay Area has a population of 70 million and a GDP of over US$1.5 trillion. By 2030, its total population will reach 80 million, its GDP will reach 3.5 trillion US dollars, and its area and economic scale will be larger than that of South Korea. With the gradual completion of infrastructure, Hong Kong’s future integration with the mainland will be “very fast and unstoppable”. “Look east, don’t look west,” Sheng Zhiwen said to young people in Hong Kong. Nowadays, when Sheng Zhiwen goes to the mainland, he often encounters “embarrassing things”, and the staff always reminds him to use the foreigner channel.
At this time, he would show his hometown card and explain that he was Chinese, which often surprised the other party. And when he arrived at the U.S. immigration checkpoint, customs officials often questioned his nationality and the reason, and he had to explain that it was a genetic problem. “I have never regretted being naturalized in China. I am very proud to be a Chinese.” This is the life choice of a legendary Jewish businessman based in Hong Kong, China, looking forward to the East and West worlds. As it turns out, he sees strength that many don’t see.