CHOW John & Michael

Chow bros Michael (left) & John with international Penthouse pets (Chris Keall)
Property, sex industry
$50 million

When brothers John and Michael Chow bought the Westpac Tower on Wellington’s Lambton Quay four years ago, there were fears they would turn it into the Lambton Love Hotel.

The brothel barons already owned a number of bars, strip clubs and brothels in Wellington and Auckland and it was assumed the 18-storey tower would be the climax of their sex empire.

But such concerns have proved to be groundless, with the principal tenant, Westpac, which has occupied the building since it was opened in the mid 1970s, renewing its lease of $3 million a year.

Not only has the building proved a nice little earner for the Chows but it has appreciated in value from the $26 million they paid for it in 2010 to $32.5 million today.

Their total property portfolio in Wellington and Auckland is now estimated to be worth more than $60 million.

However, it’s not all been good news for the Chows in recent times.

Much to the relief of many Aucklanders, they abandoned plans to develop a 15-storey super brothel on the site of the former Palace Hotel, just across the road from the SkyCity casino.

“The project has been dragging on for some time and sometimes you lose your mojo,” a disappointed John Chow declared.

But what he didn’t say was that he and his brother had been locked in a bitter turf war with rival sex siren Jacqui Le Prou of Calendar Girls, who had tried unsuccessfully to stop them from renewing a liquor licence for their strip club and brothel in Karangahape Road.

Bruised by the experience, the Chows thought better of locking horns with Ms Le Prou again and pulled the pin on developing the Palace Hotel site, which they now intend to sell.

So it’s back to the drawing board for the Naenae College-educated brothers who emigrated from Hong Kong in 1984.

However, the setback is unlikely to deter them from their current business plan, which is to employ 400 prostitutes across five venues, earning them millions of dollars and providing the cashflow to further expand their commercial property empire.