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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.


Andy Grove

Intel co-founder and former chairman

Born: 1936, Hungary

Now lives in U.S.


Grove wrote about his childhood, living as a Jew under first Nazi and then Communist rule, in his 2001 memoir, Swimming Across. Following the Soviet-backed crackdown in Hungary in 1956, Grove left Budapest for the U.S. He studied at City College of New York and Berkeley and worked at Fairchild Semiconductor before becoming one of the first employees at Intel (INTC), where he rose to become CEO and chairman.


Rajat Gupta

Genpact chairman

Born: 1948, India

Now lives in U.S.


The former managing director worldwide and senior partner worldwide for McKinsey & Co., Gupta maintains strong ties with his native India. Since 2007 he has been chairman of Genpact (G), which got its start in 1997 as the India-based business-process services operation of GE Capital. He is also chairman of the Indian School of Business and the India AIDS Initiative of the Gates Foundation, co-chairman of the Pan IIT Alumni Board, and a member of the American India Foundation.


William Heinecke

Minor International chairman and CEO

Born: 1949, U.S.

Now lives in Thailand


There are plenty of immigrants who move from Asia to the U.S. Heinecke is one of the rare examples of an immigrant going in the opposite direction. The U.S.-born businessman moved with his parents to Thailand as a child and he launched the Minor Group as a teenager. He later surrendered his U.S. passport and became a Thai citizen. Today he runs the country's largest operator of hotels and restaurants, including the Thai franchises of Four Seasons and Burger King.


Jen-Hsun Huang

Nvidia CEO

Born: 1963, Taiwan

Now lives in U.S.


The Oneida Baptist Institute in the hills of southeastern Kentucky is about as far from the bustling streets of Taipei as you can get. The Christian school is where Huang studied when he first arrived in the U.S. He later moved to the West Coast, getting a bachelor's degree from Oregon State and a master's from Stanford. He co-founded Nvidia (NVDA), a semiconductor-design company that specializes in graphics chips, in 1993.


Arianna Huffington

Huffington Post founder and editor-in-chief

Born: 1950, Greece

Now lives in U.S.


Huffington moved from her native Greece when she was 16 to Britain, where she studied economics at Cambridge. She first made a name for herself in the U.S. as a conservative columnist and wife of a millionaire Republican congressman from California, but after divorcing Michael Huffington in 1997, she shifted to the left and in 2005 launched the Huffington Post, a liberal-leaning news and blog site.


Ajit Jain

Berkshire Hathaway reinsurance division president

Born: 1951, India

Now lives in U.S.


Who could replace the Oracle of Omaha? How about the Oracle of Orissa? Speculation about a replacement for Warren Buffett often focuses on Jain. Born in Orissa, a state in eastern India, Jain studied engineering at IIT Kharagpur and worked for IBM in India before going to Harvard for an MBA and joining consultants McKinsey in 1978. He has been with Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) since 1986. In May, Buffett told investors Jain was irreplaceable, saying "Ajit is needed, and we won't find a substitute for him."


Sanjay Jha

Motorola co-CEO

Born: 1963, India

Now lives in U.S.


Jha has one of the toughest assignments in the world of telecom. The Indian-born engineer (with a PhD from Scotland's University of Strathclyde) became head of Motorola's (MOT) mobile devices division last year and is now trying to restore the company's position among the world's telecom elite. Before joining Motorola in 2008, Jha spent 14 years at Qualcomm, becoming COO in 2006.


Andrea Jung

Avon CEO

Born: 1958, Canada

Now lives in U.S.


Regularly named on lists of the world's most influential women in business, Jung was born in Toronto to Chinese immigrant parents and graduated magna cum laude from Princeton. She joined Avon (AVP) in 1994 from Neiman Marcus, where she was an executive vice-president, and within five years became Avon's CEO. She took the additional title of chairman in 2001.


Yue-Sai Kan

House of Yue-Sai founder

Born: 1949, China

Now lives in U.S. and China


Kan, whose father was a traditional Chinese painter, grew up in Hong Kong. After receiving a bachelor's degree in music from Brigham Young University-Hawaii, she moved to New York and started a trading company with her sister. Kan also began producing TV shows and in 1984 hosted a live broadcast from China for PBS, the public television network. The next year she became host for a show on China's state-owned CCTV network and in 1992 launched Yue-Sai Kan Cosmetics, which she sold to L'Oreal in 2004. Her company Yue-Sai Kan Productions supports the development of TV and film in China and her House of Yue-Sai operates a home-furnishings store in Shanghai.


Jawed Karim

YouTube co-founder

Born: 1979, Germany

Now lives in U.S.


Karim doesn't get as much publicity as YouTube's other co-founders, since he left the startup to attend graduate school at Stanford shortly after its launch. Karimborn to a German mother and a Bangladeshi fatherwas a co-worker with Steve Chen and Chad Hurley at PayPal when the three first began working on the video-sharing service. When Google (GOOG) bought YouTube, Kareem received shares worth more than $64 million. He is now one of the backers of San Francisco-based Dotblu, which runs a "social betting service" designed to let people turn Twitter and Facebook status updates into a game.


Gail Kelly

Westpac Banking Corp. CEO Born: 1956, South Africa

Now lives in Australia


Kelly is one of the most powerful businesswomen in Australia. The South African native moved to Oz in 1997 and became a citizen in 2001. In South Africa, she had been an executive at Nedcor Bank, one of the country's largest, and after moving to Australia she worked at Commonwealth Bank and St. George Bank, where she was CEO, before joining Westpac (WBC.AX) in 2008 as CEO.

Vinod Khosla

Kleiner Perkins general partner

Born: 1955, India

Now lives in U.S.


Khosla is one of the most successful Indian immigrants in Silicon Valley, but he begins the bio on his Web site with a failure: After studying engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, he triedand failedto launch a soy milk company for people without refrigerators. Khosla then moved to the U.S. and earned a master's degree in biomedical engineering from Carnegie Mellon and an MBA from Stanford. In 1982 he founded Sun Microsystems and in 1986 joined famed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins as a general partner. In 2004 he launched Khosla Ventures to support his interest in issues related to the environment and poverty in the developing world.


Li Ka-shing

Hutchison Whampoa chairman

Born: 1928, China

Now lives in Hong Kong


Li moved to Hong Kong from nearby Guangdong province in southern China during World War II. Today he is Hong Kong's richest man, controlling a global property, telecom, ports and retail empirenot bad for a man who got his start selling plastic flowers. Through the Li Ka-shing Foundation, he is a major supporter of Shantou University, located near his hometown in Guangdong.


Frank Lowy

Westfield chairman

Born: 1933, Slovakia

Now lives in Australia


Lowy, one of the richest men in Australia, left Europe as a refugee after World War II and fought in the Haganah, the predecessor to the Israeli army, during Israel's War of Independence. A few years later, he moved to Australia, where he co-founded Westfield (WDC.AX) and built it into one of the world's top developers of shopping centers.


Nadir Mohamed

Rogers Communications CEO

Born: 1956, Tanzania

Now lives in Canada


Mohamed spent his childhood in Tanzania, the son of Ismaili Muslim parents originally from India. The family later emigrated to Canada and Mohamed studied accounting at the University of British Columbia. He joined Rogers (RCI), one of Canada's top telecom carriers, in 2000 and took the CEO job of the Toronto-based company in March of this year.


Indra Nooyi

PepsiCo CEO

Born: 1955, India

Now lives in U.S.


Pepsi's (PEP) boss, who is also the chairman of the U.S.-India Business Council, attended Madras Christian College in southern India and received an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata (Calcutta) before studying at Yale, where she got a master's in public and private management. Prior to joining Pepsi in 1994, she worked for ABB, Motorola, Boston Consulting Group and Johnson & Johnson. Nooyi was Pepsi's chief financial officer for five years before becoming president and CEO in 2006.


Pierre Omidyar

eBay founder and chairman

Born: 1967, France

Now lives in U.S.


The founder of eBay is an Iranian-American who moved with his parents from Paris to the U.S. as a child. After earning an engineering degree from Tufts, he headed west to the Bay Area, where he launched an auction site in 1995. Two years he later named it eBay. An active philanthropist through his foundation, the Omidyar Network, he and his wife, Pam, have donated $100 million to Tufts to create the Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund, which aims to support the growth of lending to the poor. The gift is the largest in the history of the university.


Paul Oreffice

Fairfield Homes chairman

Born: 1927, Italy

Now lives in U.S.


Born in Venice, Oreffice fled war-torn Italy in 1940 with his family, moving to Ecuador and then, in 1945, to the U.S. to attend Purdue. He joined Dow Chemical after serving in the U.S. Army and went on to become the company's president and CEO in 1978. He later became chairman and retired from Dow Chemical in 1992. In addition to serving as chairman of Fairfield Homes, a developer of retirement communities, Oreffice is chairman of the National Parkinson's.

Vikram Pandit

Citigroup CEO

Born: 1957, India

Now lives in U.S.


The CEO of embattled financial giant Citi (C) was born in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. His father was an executive at a pharmaceutical company, and at age 16 Pandit moved to the U.S. to study engineering at Columbia, where he received several degrees, including a PhD. Pandit is now on the school's board of directors and also serves on the board of the Indian School of Business. Pandit became CEO of Citi in December 2007.


Haim Saban

Saban Capital Group chairman and CEO

Born: 1944, Egypt

Now lives in U.S.


Saban moved from his native Alexandria to Israel when he was 12 and after attending agricultural school and serving in the Israeli army, he moved to France in 1975 and launched a record company. In 1983 he moved once again, this time to the U.S., where he developed a reputation as a premier Hollywood dealmaker thanks to the success of shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Saban teamed up with Rupert Murdoch to create Fox Family Worldwide and pocketed $1.6 billion when Walt Disney (DIS) bought it in 2001. Since then, he and investors have bought control of Univision Communications and Bezeq, Israel's largest telecom operator.


George Soros

Soros Fund Management chairman

Born: 1930, Hungary

Now lives in U.S.


The hedge fund billionaire grew up in Budapest and, after surviving the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II, escaped for the West in 1946. He moved first to Britain, where he worked as a waiter to put himself through the London School of Economics, and then in 1956 to the U.S. He launched what became the Quantum Fund in 1973. In 1993 he founded the Open Society Institute to promote democratic institutions around the world.


Howard Stringer

Sony chairman, president, and CEO

Born: 1942, Britain

Now lives in U.S. and Japan


In 2005, what was once unthinkable happened: A gaijin took the helm at Japan's premier electronics company when Stringer took over from Noboyuki Idei and became Sony's (SNE) chairman and CEO. The Welsh-born Stringer moved to the U.S. in 1965 and soon joined the Army and went to fight in Vietnam, winning the Commendation Medal for meritorious achievement. He became a citizen in 1985. Before joining Sony, Stringer worked as a producer at CBS News, where he won nine Emmy Awards, and later ran the network.


Lip-Bu Tan

Walden International founder and chairman

Born: 1960, Malaysia

Now lives in U.S.


One of the top venture capitalists bridging Asia and Silicon Valley, Tan founded Walden International in 1987. Today, the San Francisco-based Walden is a $1.9 billion VC fund that has invested in companies such as Chinese-language portal Sina.com (SINA). Tan, who has a master's degree in nuclear engineering from MIT and an MBA from the University of San Francisco, is on the board of Sina as well as Flextronics and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp.


Harry Triguboff

Meriton chairman

Born: 1933, China

Now lives in Australia


Australian property magnate Triguboff's parents were Russian Jews who fled to northeastern China after the rise of Lenin. Before moving to Australia and launching Meriton, the privately held company that is the premier developer of residential properties in Sydney, he lived in Israel for seven years and is a major supporter of charities in the country.


James Wolfensohn

Wolfensohn & Co. chairman

Born: 1933, Australia

Now lives in U.S.


Wolfensohn, who spent a decade as president of the World Bank, is now much sought after as an advisor to governments and companies worldwide. Since leaving the bank in 2005, he has advised on global strategy at Citigroup (C) and given counsel to Beijing's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp., and the government of Kazakhstan. The University of Sydney graduate moved to the U.S. in the 1950s to attend Harvard Business School and was general partner at Salomon Smith Barney before launching Wolfensohn & Co. in 1981. After leaving the World Bank, he was special envoy to the Middle East for the Quartet and contributed his own money for Palestinians to purchase Israeli greenhouses left behind after Israel's troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip, but he resigned in April 2006.


Jerry Yang

Yahoo co-founder and former CEO

Born: 1968, Taiwan

Now lives in U.S.


Following the death of his father, Yang and his family moved to the U.S. and settled in the Bay Area of California. Yang, who co-founded Yahoo (YHOO) with Stanford classmate David Filo in 1995, is married to a fellow immigrant: Wife Akiko Yamazaki grew up in Costa Rica. He endured a rocky term as CEO from June 2007 to January 2009, when he stepped down and was replaced by Carol Bartz.


Allan Zeman

Lan Kwai Fong Holdings chairman

Born: 1949, Germany

Now lives in Hong Kong


For years before Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in 1997, many local residents worried about the future were keen to get Canadian citizenship as a hedge. Zeman, who was born in Germany but grew up in Montreal, went in the other direction. Having built a fortune as the head of a trading company and developer of Hong Kong's top entertainment district, Zeman renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2008 and became a Chinese citizen.