It's the story of many Canadians, including a number of people on our Rich 100–that of immigrants who came here to start anew. For some, Canada represented a place to rebuild their lives after fleeing persecution. The members of the Lalji family moved here after Aminmohamed Lalji was expelled from Uganda in the early 1970s by dictator Idi Amin. Those driven from their homes by the Nazis include Saul Feldberg and David Azrieli. The native countries of other wealthy Canadians include Romania (Marcel Adams), Morocco (Aldo Bensadoun), Italy (Vittorio (Vic) De Zen, Marco Muzzo, Alfredo (Fred) DeGasperis) and Jamaica (Michael Lee-Chin).
The Chan brothers, Tom and Caleb, moved to Vancouver in 1987 at the height of what was often referred to as the “Asian invasion.” Says Tom, the older of the two: “It created quite a shock to the local culture. There were some very uncomfortable locals, which is understandable.” The backlash that ensued was on top of the “major adjustments” Tom and his wife and kids were prepared for after they chose to leave densely populated Hong Kong for “more nature and more space.” Tom, who was 41 when they arrived here, had visited Vancouver in the '60s and '70s as a student at the University of California-Berkeley. He returned to the city for Expo 86, a trip that inspired him and his wife to raise their family there. “The city is so beautiful, the air is fresh, and we think the people are very friendly,” he says. Once settled, Tom and Caleb, who arrived via San Francisco, where he had run a real estate business, started Burrard International Holdings Inc., a company that develops golf courses and properties. While they co-own it, Caleb (the president) is in charge of the business side and Tom handles the family's charitable foundation. Business has been good: the Chans, who rank 58 on the Rich 100, are worth $615 million.
The most visible mark the brothers have made on their new community is the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia. Tom, a huge music fan, and Caleb helped build the centre and named it after their father, who died in 1997, the year it opened. In fact, it was their father's teaching of the biblical story of Abraham, who whenever he arrived in a new place immediately built an altar to show his appreciation to God, that inspired the brothers to help fund the project. It was also their way of signalling that they planned to stay in Canada for the long term. Explains Tom: “This is the place we have chosen. This is where we want to commit ourselves.”