Hong Kong Billionaire Buys Up Harvard Square Real Estate


Billionaire Hong Kong investor and Harvard School of Public Health alumnus Gerald L. Chan has made waves in Harvard Square in recent months with purchases of Square real estate totalling more than $100 million.

Chan’s acquisitions include the property at Winthrop Square, which houses Grendel’s Den and the recently closed UpStairs on the Square, a recently vacated American Express building, and the stretch of property from 18 to 28 JFK St., which includes UNO’s and Papyrus.


One of Chan’s most recent purchases is 39 JFK St., the former home of Leo’s Place Diner and the American Express office, both of which closed after the transfer of ownership. According to an article in Banker and Tradesman, Chan paid $33.15 million for the property.


Real estate is nothing new for Chan, who is a non-executive director at Hang Lung Properties Limited, one of the largest real estate companies in Hong Kong, alongside his brother and chairman Ronnie C. Chan. Valued at $2.95 billion, the brothers are ranked 17th on Forbes magazine’s “Hong Kong’s 50 Richest” list.

According to the Banker and Tradesman article, Chan made his purchases through a series of shell companies, which are all connected to Morningside Group, Chan’s investment company.

Julie F. Rafferty, associate vice dean for communications at the HSPH, said that Chan has remained involved with his alma mater since his graduation in 1979.

“Gerald Chan is an HSPH alumnus who has spoken at HSPH classes and events...and his message has inspired many here at the school. Because he has been an extremely popular speaker, students asked him to be Commencement speaker in 2012,” Rafferty wrote in an email to The Crimson.

Chan’s Morningside Group established the Morningside Professorship in Radiobiology at the John B. Little Center for Radiation Science and Environmental Health at HSPH in 2012, according to the group’s website.

Similar to his connections to HSPH, Chan has had ties to Harvard Square since his days as a student and recently purchased a home on Brattle St. According to Denise A. Jillson, the executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, Chan has fond memories of his time in Harvard Square, and wants to work with the community.