The Real Deal New York

Sam Chang

By Lauren Elkies

President and CEO of McSam Hotel Group, a Great Neck-based hotel development, construction, management and investment company, which has built over 30 moderately priced hotels in New York City, has 29 under construction and 20 in the pipeline.

What is your full name?
Sam Chang. When I became a U.S. citizen, that’s the name I got. My Chinese name is Shen Leong Chang.

What is your birth date?
July 29, 1960.

Where did you grow up?
Taiwan. I was born in Taipei.

Where do you live?
Long Island on Centre Island.

How many bedrooms are there in your house?
Seven.

Do you need all those bedrooms?
I don’t. I saw the house. It was wild. It’s on 18 acres. There is a private lake on my property.

Are you married?
I’m single. How do you think I can work this hard if I have a family? My first marriage was 10 years. I got divorced in 1993. My second wife was for two years. I got divorced in 2001.

Do you have children?
I have four. They’re 15 (Danny), 18 (Kevin), 23 (Jeffrey) and 24 (Jennifer).

Are you dating?
No. I’m too busy to date. I just want to finish all my work and then retire, and then I will have a relationship.

When are you going to retire?
50.

What are you going to do upon retirement?
Just relax. I’m going to build one hotel at a time after I retire. Right now I’m building 30 hotels at a time.

What was the first job you ever had?
I delivered newspapers in Tokyo, Japan when I was 14 years old. I had a fight with my mom, and I ran away from home and I moved into the dormitory for the newspaper company and delivered newspapers.

What was the fight about?
I was crazy about martial arts. I came home one day and asked my mom for money to pay for my tuition for my martial arts school, and my mom told me I should concentrate on studying and she wasn’t going to give me any more money to pay for it. I packed up and left.

What did you do after you were in the newspaper business?
When I was working at the newspaper company, a carrier of mine knew a chef in a Chinese restaurant. I got a job in the restaurant as a dishwasher. Three months later, the chef took me in as his student. I started to learn how to cook. At that time I thought I would grow up, save enough money and open a small restaurant, and that would be it for my life.That was my dream.

Did you fulfill it?
When I turned 18, I saved a little money and I went out and I bought my first restaurant. Between 18 and 23, I probably opened about 15 Chinese and Japanese restaurants.

How have you been able to be successful?
I don’t think I am successful yet. My dream is to be a billionaire.

What is your favorite hotel?
InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong.

Is it yours?
I wish!

Do you like to drink?
Yes. I’m a good drinker. I’m well-known on the street — Sam Chang is a good drinker. Last night there was a cocktail party in the Four Seasons restaurant on 52nd Street, a cocktail party by Cushman & Wakefield’s capital markets group, from 6 to 9. After I finished work, I walked in at 6:30. All the brokers, when they saw me, they went right to the bar and they said, “Sam, are you ready?” [I said], “I’m ready.” We drank five shots of tequila.

Where do you vacation?
I go back to my country once a month. Not many people know me in my country, so I can go out with a lot of freedom.

Do you have a driver?
Yes. And I have a bodyguard.

Why?
Before we had some problems with the [construction] union, remember? [Chang had labor battles at his sites in 2006 because of his use of non-union general contractors]. We already made up, but at that time I had a lot of people threatening me.

What’s on the menu for dinner tonight?
Let me put it this way — there are 21 meals per week. Ninety percent of my breakfasts I eat in my car because it takes me one hour to go to work from my house. Fifty percent of my lunches are in the car. Fifty percent of my dinners are business dinners in a restaurant.

Do you eat American food or Asian food?
Half and half.

What publications do you read daily?
None.

How do you know what’s going on in the world – like how do you know if a crane collapsed?
People will call me.

What’s the deal with the large diamond ring you’re wearing?
This one is a ring for Hersha Hospitality [Management], my partner company. All the Hersha partners have this ring [with a diamond, number of carats determined by number of years of service] and this Rolex watch [with diamonds].

What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
Peoplewho don’t know me think that I’m a real tough guy. But I’m a very easy person to get along with. I have all different kinds of friends. If you’re a janitor, you can be my friend, all the way up to Donald Trump, who’s my friend.

By Lauren Elkies

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