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Yue-Sai was nominated by Business Week Magazine as one of "The World's Most Successful Immigrants"

2009-08-02 | BusinessWeek

Immigrant Bosses Around the World

By Bruce Einhorn

Among the thorny issues President Barack Obama faces this year is immigration reform. The current system of managing immigration flows into the U.S. is widely acknowledged to be failing, with some 11.5 million undocumented workers in the country, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. President Obama wants to turn many of these illegal immigrants into citizens, but the shaky economy and high unemployment rate make such liberalization of policy a hot-button issue. This despite the fact that immigrants run many of the top companies in the U.S. Here's a look (arranged in alphabetical order) at some of the men and women who left their home countries and went on to become some of the world's most successful corporate leaders.

Shai Agassi

Better Place CEO

Born: 1968, Israel

Now lives in U.S.

The former SAP executive launched Project Better Place in 2007 with the goal of building electric cars and creating a network of recharging stations to support them. Agassi, who studied at the Technion, the Haifa-based school that is Israel's premier technology institute, is still an Israeli citizen but is now based in Silicon Valley. He has recruited Nissan and Renault Chairman Carlos Ghosn to support his project.

Ralph Alvarez

McDonald's president and chief operating officer

Born: 1955, Cuba

Now lives in U.S.

Alvarez's family settled in Florida after leaving Cuba, where his father was an airline executive. His mother taught at the University of Miami, where Alvarez received his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1976. (Today he's on the school's International Advisory Board as well as its President's Council.) He worked for Burger King and Wendy's before joining McDonald's (MCD) in 1994.

Sergey Brin

Google co-founder

Born: 1973, Russia

Now lives in U.S.

Google's (GOOG) co-founder grew up in Moscow during the Brezhnev era, when anti-Semitism flourished. After suffering from policies that forbade Jews from certain positions, Brin's parents moved the family to the U.S. in 1979. Brin studied at the University of Maryland and went on to launch Google with Larry Page when both were students at Stanford. Like Page, he is an investor in electric car pioneer Tesla Motors.

Morris Chang

TSMC chairman

Born: 1931, China

Now lives in Taiwan

Known as the father of Taiwan's chip industry, Chang grew up in China but left for the U.S. during the Chinese civil war in the late 1940s. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from MIT and a PhD from Stanford, worked at Texas Instruments for 25 years, and became a U.S. citizen before moving to Taiwan to launch Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSM) in 1987. Since then, he has built the company into the world's largest foundry, or made-to-order chip manufacturer.

John Chen

Sybase chairman, CEO, and president

Born: 1955, Hong Kong

Now lives in U.S.

Hong Kong-born Chen has been the boss at Sybase (SY) since 1998. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he got a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Brown and a master's from Caltech. He is a member of Walt Disney's board of directors and sits on the President's Export Council, a U.S. advisory body on international trade.

Pehong Chen

BroadVision chairman, president, and CEO

Born: 1957, Taiwan

Now lives in U.S.

Chen is one of the most successful immigrants in Silicon Valley. He founded BroadVision (BVSN) in 1993 and before that was founder of Gain Technology (acquired by Sybase in 1992) and co-founder of Siebel Systems (acquired by Oracle in 2005). Chen has a PhD in computer science from Berkeley and is active in China, where he sits on the boards of Internet portal Sina (SINA) and software developer Ufida.

Steve Chen

YouTube co-founder

Born: 1978, Taiwan

Now lives in U.S.

YouTube's co-founder spent his early childhood in Taiwan, moving to the U.S. as a teen to attend high school. He went on to the University of Illinois and then PayPal. At the eBay-owned company he met Jawed Karim and Chad Hurley, with whom he launched YouTube in 2005. After the video-sharing service became hugely popular, Google (GOOG) acquired it a year later, earning Chen a payday of stock worth $326 million.

James Chu

ViewSonic chairman and CEO

Born: 1957, Taiwan

Now lives in U.S.

Taiwan-born Chu immigrated to the U.S. in 1986 to become president of U.S. operations at Taiwanese keyboard manufacturer Behavior Tech Computer. The following year he started Keypoint Technology, specializing in power supplies, keyboards, and PC monitors and other computer peripherals. In 1990, the company started making monitors under the brand name ViewSonic, and Chu soon made that the name of the company.

Francisco D'Souza

Cognizant CEO

Born: 1968, Kenya

Now lives in U.S.

D'Souza was born in Nairobi but went to college at the University of East Asia (now called the University of Macau). He then moved to the U.S. and received an MBA from Carnegie Mellon. He worked at Dun & Bradstreet for four years before joining Cognizant when the outsourcing company got started as a spin-off from Dun & Bradstreet in 1994.

Mohamed al-Fayed

Harrods Department Store executive chairman

Born: 1933, Egypt

Now lives in Britain

Fayed grew up in Alexandria and first went into business by launching a company that operated ferries in the Mediterranean and Red seas and in the late 1950s he and his two brothers moved their headquarters to Genoa. In the 1960s Fayed won business working on construction projects in Dubai. In 1985 he acquired control of Harrods. The British government has rejected the controversial businessman's attempts to gain citizenship. Fayed's son Dodi was Princess Diana's boyfriend and died with her in a 1997 car crash in Paris.

George Feldenkreis

Perry Ellis International

Born: 1935, Cuba

Now lives in U.S.

Feldenkreis, born in Havana to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, joined the exodus from Castro's Cuba in 1961, settling in Miami. There, he launched a company that specialized in school uniforms and tropical-themed shirts. The company, Supreme International, changed its name to Perry Ellis International after acquiring the brand in 1999. Feldenkreis is the founder of the Universal National Bank of Miami and is on the board of the University of Miami and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. His son Oscar is the company's president and chief operating officer.

Carlos Ghosn

Renault chairman, president, and CEO

Nissan chairman

Born: 1954, Brazil

Now lives in France and Japan

Ghosn, credited for turning around first Nissan (NSANY) and later Renault (RENA.PA), spent his early childhood in Brazil and then moved to Lebanon, his parents' home country. He moved to France to attend the École Polytechnique and the École des Mines de Paris. Ghosn worked in the tire industry for nearly two decades before joining Renault in 1996. He became boss at Nissan, in which the French automaker owned a large stake, in 1999 and in 2005 took the helm at Renault itself.