The new generation of leaders in the San Gabriel Valley's booming Chinatown harken largely from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Most are still men, although more women are playing prominent roles.

Although far from a complete list, the leaders spotlighted here are representative of the kinds of people giving the new Chinatown its energy and momentum.

Eddy Chao

Candet Properties

Residence: Arcadia

Native of: Taiwan

Eddy Chao came to the United States 20 years ago to get a degree in forestry at the University of Idaho. But Chao didn't see much of a future for him.

"It's a very narrow field," he said. "Either you go to a paper company, or a wood products company, or you become a ranger."

Thinking his options would be limited, Chao dropped out of school and headed south to Los Angeles. He took a succession of low-paying jobs in restaurants using his off-hours to get a real estate license. He began selling homes in the mid-1980s, then moved into the lucrative commercial real estate industry as a tenant representative.

In 1989, Chao and developer Richard Alter formed Alhambra-based Candet Properties to broker commercial deals. Their big break came in 1994, when they sold the 520 Broadway Building in Santa Monica to Taiwanese investors for $12 million.

Other big deals followed, including the sale of the Biltmore Hotel to Hong Kong investors for $62 million and the sale of the Inter-Continental to a group of Asian investors for about $40 million.

Within L.A.'s new Chinatown, Chao has developed a reputation as a hard working and very low-key businessman who enjoys being behind the scenes.

EXAMPLE?

ALSO, IS HE NOW CONSIDERED ONE OF THE PREMIER CHINESE REAL ESTATE FOLKS IN TOWN? WE NEED TO BE A LITTLE MORE DECLARATIVE

"He has a lot of patience working with Taiwanese investors," said Anthony Chien, president and chief executive officer of Eastern International Bank.

Chien sees big things ahead for Chao.

"He's always working on improving himself," he said.

Andrew Cherng

Panda Management Inc.

Residence: South Pasadena

Native of: China

Born in China just before the Communist revolution of 1949, Andrew Cherng came to the United States to study mathematics at the University of Missouri.

He ended up as the founder of one of the biggest Chinese food chains in the country Panda Management Inc., which operates the ubiquitous Panda Express outlets in malls around the country.

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