JAPAN Mori MORI BUILDING/MORI TRUST Minoru and Akira Mori split up and built successful real estate companies on their own. One brother now talks of building Utopia, while the other is content to just build 2003 Revenues: $2.25 billion
Minoru Mori, Tokyo's most powerful property tycoon and a leading member of Japan's most prominent real estate--development family, fancies himself to be something of a philosopher-builder. Sitting in a leather armchair behind a gigantic marble conference table at his company headquarters, the 69-year-old president and CEO of Mori Building grandiloquently expounds upon his vision: Buildings are not just business ventures or structures where people live and work but also opportunities for social betterment. His goal, he says, is to revolutionize the way his countrymen live by creating high-rise, inner-city communities that do away with the infamous Tokyo commute and free up more leisure time. At stake, he says, is nothing less than the city's international competitiveness and its citizens' happiness.
His brother Akira has no such grand visions. A bricks-and-mortar guy, he gravitated toward more modest, financially conservative projects. Rather than squabbling unproductively, the brothers parted ways in 1999, splitting the family empire into Minoru's Mori Building (with $1.3 billion in sales and 122 buildings under management) and Akira's Mori Trust ($949 million in sales and 68 buildings under management). "A boat can't have two captains," Akira says.
Intellectualism, whether focused on art or commerce, is a defining characteristic of the Mori clan. Minoru and Akira's father Taikichiro Mori, the founder of what is now Mori Building, was originally a professor of business in Yokohama, Japan. But seeing how land prices had fallen to absurdly low levels after World War II, Taikichiro began buying lots in central Tokyo, where the family had been tobacconists and rice merchants for generations. With the assistance of his second son, Minoru, and third son, Akira, now 67, Taikichiro built Mori Building into one of Japan's most successful real estate--management companies. (Two other children, Kei and Aiko, became university professors.) Fueled by the great Japanese asset bubble of the 1980s, Taikichiro reigned as the richest man in the world in 1991 and '92, according to Forbes.
Following Taikichiro's death in 1993, however, a rift arose in the house of Mori. Minoru and Akira harbored conflicting strategic visions. Minoru favored bold urban re-engineering, as demonstrated not only by his Roppongi Hills mini-city in Tokyo but also a project in Shanghai to build the world's tallest building. From anyone else, that might seem like delusional self-aggrandizement, but Mori actually has the muscle to put some mortar behind his message. Take the $2.25 billion, 27-acre Roppongi Hills. The project, which opened 12 months ago, was carved from more than 400 smaller building lots that Mori systematically pieced together over 14 years. It features a 54-story office tower and 793 apartments, integrated with shops, restaurants, parks and gardens.