Business

The Chinese tycoon with a love of animals and adventure

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Media caption"I wanted to challenge my fate," says Huang Nubo

Knowing how to make an impression can be a useful skill in business. Chinese entrepreneur Huang Nubo certainly knows how to do that - before you have even met him.

Billionaire Mr Huang is the chair and founder of property and leisure giant Beijing Zhongkun Investment Group, a firm he aims to make one of the world's biggest players in the leisure industry in the next few years.

The first thing you notice when you enter his spacious office in Beijing is a vast tank, in which a shark is swimming up and down.

Not only that, there are also several cats as well as monkeys and a variety of birds, including parrots and parakeets.

Image caption Huang Nubo has a large shark tank in his office

We soon discovered that Mr Huang's pets are independently minded, and can be a little rebellious. One puss equipped with a bell on its collar suddenly decided to run around the room halfway through our interview, and managed to halt filming for several minutes until it could be caught and ushered out.

Mr Huang seems to share his pets' adventurous streak. He is certainly no ordinary businessman. In addition to amassing an array of unusual animals, he has climbed Everest several times, and has been writing poetry since childhood.

"If you are just a businessman and live for money, your life is boring," he says.

Image caption One of Mr Huang's cats tried its best to disrupt filming

"A man must be useful to society… life must not be about earning lots of money, buying private jets, playing golf, dating women. He needs to keep being creative."

Mr Huang's present circumstances could not be more different to his life when he was a child. He and his family lost everything during China's Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

"My father was in prison because he was considered a rebel," says Mr Huang. His father ended up taking his own life.

"After that my family and I hit rock bottom. Those days were indescribable," he recalls.

Mr Huang's luck eventually took a turn for the better in adulthood, when he managed to secure job in the publicity department of the Communist Party.

But after a while he became dissatisfied.

"I wanted to challenge my fate," he remembers. He decided to start a company, but at first had no idea of how to go about it. He tried lots of things, including "selling dolls, printing name cards, reselling photocopiers, reselling steel" to name but a few.

Image caption Huang Nubo has climbed Everest several times

Eventually he achieved success in the real estate field, and then branched out into leisure. His firm now has resort developments across China and abroad.

Mr Huang made headlines a couple of years ago with his audacious plan to develop a huge resort occupying 300 sq km (155 sq miles) of Iceland. The scheme did not go ahead, although he says he remains ever hopeful.

Instead, he has turned his attention elsewhere, with plans moving ahead to develop a resort near Tromso in Norway.

Mr Huang sees a huge potential market.

Image caption Slogans left over from the Cultural Revolution are still visible on the walls of the ancient village being restored by Zhongkun Investment Group

"China is going to have the greatest number of outbound tourists. Where do the Chinese go for vacation? I choose Northern Europe for them… it has a very different culture, a beautiful natural landscape, and stable societies," he says.

Mr Huang is one of the first wave of entrepreneurs to emerge after China liberalised its economy in the early 1980s.

He thinks the private sector has a key role to play in the next stage of the country's economic development. He sees private companies as being more international in their outlook, an important attribute as global competition increases.

He wants to build a vast enterprise - but not at any price. He is a strong believer in organic growth and says mergers or deals with other firms hold little appeal.

"I hope to see everything I dream of becoming reality," he says. "I hope to build a dream and then realise it. This is the greatest fun."

This feature is based on an interview by leadership expert Steve Tappin for the BBC's CEO Guru series, produced by Neil Koenig.

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