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CHOW John & Michael

Property, sex industry
$50 million

The Chow family emigrated from Hong Kong in 1984.

Brothers John and Michael were educated at Naenae College and Victoria University before setting up the Chow Group in 1999 from their parents’ takeaway shop in Wellington’s Courtenay Place.

Within a few years they built up a sizeable property portfolio, acquiring buildings that were undervalued by the market or where extra value could be added.

Along the way they invested in strip clubs and brothels, acquiring the licensing rights for Penthouse Clubs.

Today the Chow Group claims to have a market value in excess of $200 million, owning about a dozen commercial buildings in Wellington’s CBD and a handful in Auckland.

Their biggest investment in the Queen City is a soon-to-be-built 15-storey hotel and brothel opposite the Sky Tower.

The controvesial project attracted more than 200 objections, with some describing it as a “mega-brothel” that would open the floodgates to other similar red-light developments.

However, four independent commissioners decreed that the law permitted a brothel on the site and said any concerns should be addressed to Auckland Council through the new unitary plan and bylaw processes.

The Chows have also acquired the Galaxy Club on Auckland’s Gore St which, according to the New Zealand Herald, will employ between 80 and 120 women aged 18 to early 40s.

The brothers told the Herald they have spent $4 million on the fitout and strengthening of the building, which formerly housed the Mermaids strip club (which has been replaced by the brothers' new Penthouse club).

To oversee their expanding Auckland empire, they have bought a $6.65 million house in Fenton Circus, Orakei, that overlooks the harbour.

The 647sq m concrete home sits on a 1393sq m section and has five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a swimming pool.

It used to be owned by multimillionaire property developer Tony Gapes and will afford them more space and privacy than the Stamford Plaza where they usually stay in Auckland.

With their black suits and BMWs, they should become a familiar sight around New Zealand’s largest city as they relentlessly pursue their ambition to have a billion dollar property portfolio by 2020.

Sex and the City is destined to take on a new meaning with them in town.