High Profile Expat Success Stories: Business

18 November 2013


The expat experience opens doors to a myriad of opportunities so it’s not surprising to find that many of the world’s most successful people had experiences as expats. While it can be challenging at times, there are so many things we learn from expatriation that gives us an edge in most careers, industries and even in life. Today, studies about the relationship of expatriation and success are being conducted in top universities and research centres worldwide and more people are intrigued about the unique experiences that the expat lifestyle can give.


We have examples of high profile celebrities and personalities with colourful experiences as expats. In this series of posts, find out how the rewarding experience as expats changed their lives and lead them to success.


We start our High Profile Expat Success Stories with this category. A few of the most rewarding benefits of the expat experience is the ability to adapt and the ability to think outside the box. In business, being aware of cultural diversities and being exposed to different types of living is a huge advantage. Experience as an expat also helps in terms of expansion and thinking about possibilities that are available. With an open mind and adaptable spirit, expat businessmen truly have what it takes to make it to the top of every industry in the world.

Here are a few examples of expat businessmen who are continuing to expand their empire and explore the world of possibilities every day.


Tony Fernandes


Originally From: Malaysia

Lived as an expat in: London

Notable Companies: AirAsia, Caterham Group, Tune Group


Tan Sri Anthony Francis Fernandes or simply Tony Fernandes is one of the most successful Asian entrepreneurs to date. Fernandes was born in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia to and Indian father and Portugese mother. He lived as an expat first as a student and eventually as vice president of Warner Musical group in London for several years before returning to Malaysia where he started his business empire in 2001. Fernandes used his mixed cultural experience as a way to explore a wide range of opportunities in terms of business. He also proudly sites his experiences as an expat as key to improvements and innovations for his airline Air Asia


Mohammad Zahoor


Originally From: Pakistan

Lived as an expat in: Ukraine

Notable Companies: ISTIL Group, Kyiv Post


Mohammad Zahoor is a British Pakistani business magnate who made his fortune in steel production and is now a media mogul and lives as a foreign oligarch in Ukraine. Zahoor is called the white tiger of the business world and blends his heritage of Eurasian culture to his expanding business empire. Zahoor is listed currently as the world’s richest Expat ranging from businesses in Steel, real estate and media.


Indra Nooyi


Originally From: India

Lived as an expat in: USA

Notable Companies: PepsiCo, Motorola


Battling racial and gender discrimination in a very male dominant country and industry, Indra Nooyi has become one of the most powerful women in the world. Nooyi was born in India and lived as an expat in the US in the 70s where she pursued her studies and proceeded to excel in all fields of management in the top companies in America until she was named CEO in PepsiCo. Nooyi is proud of her heritage and experiences and continues to share her success story as the first Indian woman to head a fortune 500 company.


Michael Ma


Originally From: Laos

Lived as an expat in: Australia, Thailand, Singapore

Notable Companies: IndoChine Group


Michael Ma’s journey to success has not been very easy. Escaping the war in Laos, Ma and his family lived as refugees in Thailand and eventually settled in Bangkok where they lived in a small flat only living on money that they get from selling his mother’s old jewellery. In 1976 their family was given the chance to move to Australia where his family continued to struggle until his father started a small business which grew to a top super market and shopping chain in Sydney. Following his parent’s success in business in Australia, Ma’s mother gave him 100 AUD to set up his own business and decided to start fresh in Singapore. He continued to learn more about commodity and trading and eventually started IndoChine in 2000. Today, Michael Ma is considered a Restaurant and Bar Savant with a total of 23 award winning restaurants, cafes, clubs and bars all over the world.


Gail Kelly


Originally From: South Africa

Lived as an expat in: Zimbabwe, Australia

Notable Companies: St. George, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac


Gail Kelly is one of the biggest names in banking to date. Kelly originally studied Education in South Africa and taught Latin at Falcon College in Zimbabwe where she and her husband lived while her husband served in the Rhodesian (former name of Zimbabwe) army. Upon their return to South Africa, Kelly started working for Nedcor Bank as a teller but then quickly worked up the corporate ladder and was recruited as CEO of St. George Bank. During her reign as CEO in St. George, she raised the bank’s profitability and her success paved way for other notable banks to take notice. Eventually, she took the position of CEO in Westpac, one of Australia’s “big four” in banking where she continues to excel. In 2011, Kelly was ranked 32nd most powerful woman in the world.


Shaw-Lan Wang


Originally From: China

Lived as an expat in: Taiwan, Switzerland, France

Notable Companies: United Daily News, Lanvin, Min Sheng Bao, Europe Journal


Shaw-Lan Wang, or better known as Madame Wang, is the daughter of United Daily News founder Wang Tiwu. She was born as a journalism and media princess and even worked as a reporter for her father’s company. She married an air force pilot which led her to live in Switzerland until her father asked her to return to Taiwan to inherit their family business. Madam Wang’s most noted business move is her purchase of the fashion house Lanvin from major cosmetic group L’Oreal. She has earned the respect of the eastern and western business world and continues to achieve success through the most important Chinese ideals; tradition and respect.


Johann Rupert


Originally From: South Africa

Lived as an expat in: USA, Switzerland

Notable Companies: Rembrandt Group, Compagnie Financière Richemont, Remgro


The eldest son of business tycoon Anton Rupert, Johann Rupert grew his father’s shadow running the family business, the Rembrandt Group before founding his own company Compagnie Financière Richemont in 1988. He also worked in Chase Bank for an apprenticeship in Chase Manhattan for two years and lived as an expat in the US before returning to South Africa to take over his father’s company. Today, Johann Rupert juggles high profile companies and lives in Switzerland and South Africa. He is currently listed as the richest man in South Africa.


Pansy Ho


Originally From: USA

Lived as an expat in: Hong Kong, Macau

Notable Companies: Shun Tak Holdings, MGM China


Listed as one of Asia’s 50 most powerful (and certainly one of the most controversial) women, Pansy Ho transitioned from being a TV personality and singer in Hong Kong to being one of the most respected women in the Hong Kong and Macau business world. Ho was born and grew up in Palo Alto California before her family moved to Hong Kong following her graduation from Sta. Clara University. After a brief career in Hong Kong Show business which she pursued against her father’s wishes, Ho went on to a business where she really excelled: Gambling. She is now known as the richest woman in Hong Kong and the woman behind Asia’s gambling Mecca; Macau.