如果这还不能说明问题，严介和的到来一定可以。作为唯一在第一排就坐的私营企业家和中国最大民营建筑公司——太平洋建设集团（Pacific Construction Group）创始人，严介和干的都不是小事。进门刚刚几秒钟，这位头发灰白的54岁亿万富翁已经笑呵呵地把手搭在了别人的肩膀上。他神采奕奕，声音洪亮——就连拿起麦克风让大家安静的政府官员也很难发出那么大的声音。
单就太平洋建设集团来说，这份合同至少价值100亿美元，最高可能达到170亿美元，具体数额取决于最终方案。敲定合同条款只用了30天（与之相比，美国历史上最大的私人房地产项目——由Related Real Estate承建的纽约市哈得逊码头去年评估的价值为200亿美元）。
By the time the VIP guests arrive, the meeting hall at the Yunnan Zhenzhuang Guest House in the southern city of Kunming is jammed with Communist Party officials and onlookers—some 200 of them, each in the party uniform of black suit and white button-down shirt, all gathered for an announcement from the local party boss. Maybe it’s the nervous chatter of small talk—or perhaps that the theme song to Titanic is playing mournfully, majestically, over the hotel speakers—but there’s little doubt the news will be a doozy. Celine Dion doesn’t lie.
If that isn’t a giveaway, the presence of Yan Jiehe (pronounced Yen Geah-huh) surely is. Yan, the lone private businessman in the front row and the founder of Pacific Construction Group, China’s largest privately owned builder, doesn’t do anything small. Within seconds of entering the room, the grinning, gray-haired, 54-year-old billionaire has an arm wrapped around someone’s shoulder. His face is reddened with energy. His voice is booming—to the point that when a party official grabs the microphone to settle the crowd, he’s barely as loud as Yan.
And just like the man, the news on this Sunday morning in early June is oddly, exponentially larger than life. Pacific will build the foundation of a $60 billion industrial and technology hub in this southern Chinese region—an amalgam of entirely new residential and business districts, complete with bridges, and tunnels, encompassing an area twice the size of Los Angeles.
To Pacific alone, the Kunming contract is worth at least $10 billion and perhaps as much as $17 billion, depending on how the final plans shake out. It took just 30 days to iron out the terms. (For comparison, the largest-ever private real estate deal in the U.S., Related’s Hudson Yards project in New York City, was valued at $20 billion last year; see our story.)
That’s what makes it a Yan Jiehe deal. Big. Fast. Dizzying.
If the name Yan Jiehe isn’t familiar outside China, it isn’t by Yan Jiehe’s choice. He’s a buddy of Bill Clinton and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, both of whom have gone to his annual CEO forum in Shanghai. With a net worth estimated at some $3 billion, Yan has a prominent spot on Hurun Report’slist of China’s richest people—a fact that, unlike some other wealthy compatriots, he makes no effort to hide.
At his sprawling villa compound outside Nan-jing, China’s former capital, Yan readily shows off a pair of chairs (“The most expensive wood in the world,” he says), then the gilded bathroom spa tub that fits eight, then the massive marble columns (made from single slabs) that hold up the living room—and then the spot where he’s building his helicopter pad. When he describes plans to carve out a new writing den in the backyard, he is quick to say that it will resemble the Sydney Opera House, if a tad smaller.
Accompanying that ostentation is an outspokenness that has put the businessman at risk on occasion. He has publicly bashed the country’s founding father, Chairman Mao, and nearly gone to jail after an angry business dispute with government officials. He and his wife, Zhang Yunqin, have a 31-year-old daughter and a 28-year-old son; having the latter required Yan to pay a fine of 18,000 renminbi, or about $6,000 at the time, for violating China’s one-child policy.
For the past two decades Yan has relied on such brass and gumption to outdo well-entrenched rivals in the Chinese construction industry, most of which are state-owned enterprises (SOEs) with close party ties.