Class of His Own
Zhang Bangxin capitalized on a leading preoccupation of chinese parents—giving their one child the finest education possible— with a tutoring empire. THEY START Them Young at Zhang Bangxin’s schools. Toddlers, some no older than 2, squirm their way through 90- to 120-minute classes (typical lesson: beginner math) that cost their parents about $20 an hour (the average Chinese manufacturing worker, by comparison, earns around $2 hourly). Some of these students will stick with Zhang’s tutors through high school, boning up on history, math, Chinese, English and more.
Zhang’s TAL Education Group is one of the biggest players in Chinese private education. Revenues from his 301 schools in mainland China have climbed nearly 300% in four years to $434 million. The company’s New York-listed stock is up 200% since its October 2010 IPO, lifting the press-shy Zhang, TAL’S 36-year-old chief executive, into the billionaire ranks with a $1.5 billion fortune.
He cofounded TAL in 2003 after his experience as a tutor in graduate school (one of his reported seven part-time jobs) showed him the field’s potential. TAL continues to add physical locations—it plans to open two to four new schools each year—but it’s increasingly focused on its online offerings. (“We want to be right at the cusp of where education meets technology,” Zhang told investors in July.) The company recently launched a mobile app, which enables students to communicate with tutors at any time of day. Blue diamonds are extraordinarily rare, but the records they set at auction are not. In November 2015 the Blue Moon diamond—a 12-carat Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Blue gem—shattered a sales record when it was hammered down at Sotheby’s in Geneva for $48.5 million. And in early April a 10-carat blue diamond with the pedestrian name De Beers Millennium Jewel 4 set an auction record for Asia, selling at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $31.8 million.
The Blue Moon could be eclipsed on May 18, when Christie’s in Geneva puts forth the largest blue diamond ever auctioned: the Oppenheimer Blue, a 14.62-carat Fancy Vivid Blue diamond with a presale estimate of $38 million to $45 million. Loose stones aren’t the only things ringing up millions; rings do as well. On Apr. 19 Sotheby’s is auctioning a 9.54-carat blue diamond ring (above) that once belonged to Shirley Temple. The piece, a gift from her father when she appeared in The Blue Bird at age 12, is expected to sell for $25 million to $35 million—or roughly the cost of 10 million Shirley Temple cocktails.