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  • Writer's pictureAdam German

Former GIC Japan head Ken Chan to develop ¥200 billion ski resort in Myoko with luxury hotels

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

On October 11th, Bloomberg Japan reported on Patience Capital Group (PCG) founder Ken Chan. Patience Capital Group is part owner of Patience Realty.


The following is a translation of the article.

 
Key Takeaways:
  • Ken Chan, former head of Singapore's GIC in Japan, plans a $1.4 billion investment to transform Niigata's Myoko Plateau into a high-end ski resort.

  • PCG, Chan's real estate investment fund, is acquiring land and aims to build luxury hotels and employee housing by 2026.

  • The project is a cornerstone for PCG, managing almost $500 million in assets, including Japanese residential real estate.

  • Local authorities welcome the development but stress the importance of gaining local residents' understanding during development processes.

  • Niseko took 19 years to build to current world class status, Mr. Chan thinks Myoko can reach the same level in less time.

 

Niigata Prefecture's Myoko Plateau, known for its heavy snowfall, is on the cusp of a transformation.


Ken Chan, 56, who served as the head of the Japanese branch of Singaporean government-backed investment fund GIC, plans to invest approximately $1.4 billion (208 billion yen) in the coming years, with the aim of turning this area into a high-end ski resort comparable to Aspen in the United States or Whistler in Canada.


Mr. Chan, who founded the real estate investment fund Patience Capital Group (PCG) in 2019 after retiring from GIC, has been steadily acquiring land in the vicinity over the past two years, buoyed by the yen's depreciation.

Ken Chan, courtesy of Bloomberg.


The goal is to construct high-end hotels and housing for thousands of employees by 2026, setting the stage for a project that could put Myoko on the global tourism map.


This ambitious project, which encompasses Japanese residential real estate, represents a cornerstone for PCG, which currently manages nearly $500 million.


During an interview in his Tokyo office, Mr. Chan shared, "I always say I can't just put this project in my bag and take it back to Singapore. This is something permanent."


Mr. Chan has deep ties to Japan. Born into a family of Singaporean physicians living in Japan, he spent the first six years of his life in the country. After graduating from the University of Southern California, he returned to Japan and Singapore, working in IT and finance.


In the early 2000s, as GIC faced challenges in winning bids for real estate within Japan, they sought Singaporeans with cultural knowledge of Japan and work experience in Tokyo. In 2004, Mr. Chan was dispatched to Japan as a GIC expatriate, where he built relationships with corporate executives like Sasaki Shinichi, former vice-president of Sumitomo Trading.


Sasaki, who now serves as an advisor to PCG, commended Mr. Chan, saying, "He has attracted very smart investors." He noted that PCG appears to have a balanced mix of foreign institutional investors, individual investors, Japanese banks, and even regional banks.


Managing Two Funds

After a nearly 20-year tenure at GIC, Mr. Chan retired and established PCG, which now manages two funds. The first, a Japan-focused tourism real estate fund, raised ¥35 billion, most of which is earmarked for standby capital for the ski resort business.

Courtesy of Patience Capital Group.


PCG is also investing in Tokyo residential properties with a ¥40 billion Japan Residential Opportunity Fund. Furthermore, they have embarked on fundraising efforts to secure ¥25 billion for a second Residential Fund targeting a 15% annual return.


However, the future success of PCG hinges on Myoko's ski resorts, which captivate skiers with their powder snow. The company intends to announce at least two to three winners of an auction involving more than ten global hotel chains by December.

Lime Resort Myoko, courtesy of Patience Capital Group.


Over the next three to four years alone, they will require nearly $500 million in investments. Mr. Chan envisions a resort that, after several stages, will feature a shopping street lined with world-class brand stores and world-renowned restaurants.

Courtesy of Patience Capital Group.


PCG has already acquired approximately 350 hectares of land around Myoko Plateau, equivalent to about 75 Tokyo Domes, and purchased the Madarao Kogen Ski Resort, spanning Niigata and Nagano Prefectures. Mr. Chan revealed that they are currently negotiating the acquisition of land for employee housing.

Courtesy of Destination Jyoetsu Myoko.


The resort, located about a four-hour drive from Tokyo or a two-hour train ride, envisions scenes of visitors enjoying skiing or hiking in the warm season and sending their children to summer camps. PCG anticipates that it will take around ten years and approximately ¥210 billion to reach a certain scale as a high-end resort.


Risks are present. According to Japan Productivity Center statistics, the number of skiers and snowboarders in Japan decreased significantly in the 2000s, with a 75% decline from the peak of the late 1990s by 2020. Therefore, foreign tourists will be crucial. However, how local residents will perceive the influx of wealthy tourists and the necessary labor force for serving them remains uncertain.


Strong Consideration for Local Residents

Kenhiko Wakabayashi, head of the Tourism Promotion Section at the Nagano Prefectural Office, stated, "From the perspective of promoting tourism, we welcome new ski resort development plans," but he stressed the importance of gaining the understanding of local residents. While it's evident that the number of visitors to ski resorts has been decreasing year by year, he sees the potential for an increase in inbound tourists. The revitalization of the ski industry, which generates crucial winter employment, would be "welcome" for the prefecture.


Yosuke Kanpeira, owner of the restaurant Good Mountains in the vicinity of the Hokuriku Shinkansen Iiyama Station, at the foot of Madarao Kogen Ski Resort, is hoping for the regional revitalization brought about by the increasing number of foreign tourists. He said, "Until now, it was mainly low-profit, low-cost tours," and added that he would be "very excited" if the acquisition by foreign funds brought more customers from abroad.


The development of large-scale resorts, leading to an increase in tourists, employment, and tax revenue, is expected to make a significant contribution to the regional economy. Therefore, Mr. Chan is confident that the understanding of the local residents can be obtained. Like many local governments in Japan, the population of Myoko City has decreased over the past 30 years.


Niseko in Hokkaido, now a globally recognized ski resort, took approximately 19 years to reach its current state. With a well-thought-out plan from the initial stages and ownership of much of the required land in the Myoko Plateau area, Mr. Chan believes they can expedite development. He proudly stated, "The company I founded will outlive me," and emphasized, "This is for the next generation."


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