In Asia’s Stealthy Rich City, the Ultra Wealthy Hide Their Hermes

Date: April 2, 2019
By: Frederik Balfour and Chinmei Sung

  •  Taipei ranked 8th among cities for those with $30 Million plus
  •  Many of the family fortunes were built from factories in China

To show off a $50 million Mark Rothko painting that Sotheby’s plans to sell in New York, the auction house took it to Asia to tempt wealthy bidders. Outside of the company’s regional base in Hong Kong, the artwork made only one stop — not Shanghai or Tokyo or Singapore, but Taipei.

“We take the art to where the buyers are,” said Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, who hosted a two-day preview attended by Maggie and Richard Tsai and Yageo Corp. chairman Pierre Chen. “The Taiwanese market is hugely important for us.”

China may be minting billionaires faster than anywhere else, but Taiwan has been building fortunes since the 1950s. According to Knight Frank’s 2019 Wealth Report, Taipei was eighth in a global list of cities ranked by the number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, with 1,519 people who have at least $30 million in assets. And the property firm predicts that number will rise to 1,864 by 2023.

Wealth creation on the island of 23.6 million people took off in the 1970s with the proliferation of hundreds of small manufacturers cranking out everything from televisions to Barbie dolls that fueled Taiwan’s export-led growth. By the 1980s, the city had moved up the value chain, making electronic components and goods, led by computer companies and chip makers such as Acer Inc. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

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