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Sent to Germany to escape a bad school record, a young immigrant named John Tu opened a Scottsdale gift shop, then moved on to building two-billion-dollar PC-add-on leader Kingston Technology.


GOLDSEA | ASIAN AMERICAN RAGS-TO-RICHES SAGAS

MIDAS OF MEMORY

PAGE 1 OF 6

he man who came down to the lobby to greet us was well over six-feet and stooped a bit as though not wanting to impose by his height. He was dressed in a blue polo shirt and jeans. His face wore a gentle, kindly expression. No doubt he was an assistant to the big man himself. We were impressed by his unassuming friendliness. He certainly wasn't the abrupt and haughty palace guard so common in the corporate world. The hand he extended was as warm and gentle as the expression on his unlined face.

     "Hi, I'm John," he said in a soft, almost hesitant voice, as though not wanting to presume with that bit of information.

     "John Tu?" we asked. We refrained from adding, The dynamo who, with his partner David Sun, founded Kingston Technologies and turned it into a multi-billion-dollar company, the world's leading independent supplier of memory modules? The same John Tu who in eight short years has taken on the stature of an Asian American business legend?

     The man nodded with a vaguely apologetic expression as though concerned that he might have disappointed us.

     We rode the elevator to the second-floor and walked past a large formation of standard-issue prefab cubicles. John Tu exchanged greetings with employees, most of whom were better dressed than him. By the time we were seated in the conference room, we had recovered enough from our surprise to remark on the obvious lack of distance between him and his employees.

     "Life is not 'Excuse me, Mr Tu, may I have five minutes of your time?'" he said.

     We were even more surprised, a while later, when we discovered that he didn't have his own private office and worked in one of the dozens of cubicles filling the floor. At his level of success, about the only thing that could trip him up was arrogance, and we could see that Tu was well fortified against that danger. He was the proverbial stalk of ripe grain.

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     We began to understand how Kingston had become so big so fast--and more importantly--why it was expected to reach $2.5 billion in sales during the coming year. Tu was the kind of boss people didn't want to disappoint, and in a fast-growing company, retaining good, hard-working employees was a critical factor in growth. Kingston had the industry's highest employee-retention rate. As it turned out, its employees were smart to put their faith in Tu. Later that year, when a controlling interest in Kingston was bought by Masayoshi Son, the Korean-Japanese boy wonder who had also bought Ziff-Davis and Comdex, Tu remembered who had helped him achieve that two-billion-dollar payday. To provie it, he gave away several hundred million dollars to employees in the form of a generous bonus. The smallest bonus was reputedly $75,000. The biggest? In the millions. PAGE 2

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John Tu and his partner began Kingston by combining obsolete memory chips into modules that could meet the booming demand in the personal computer market.



"Life is not 'Excuse me, Mr Tu, may I have five minutes of your time?'"




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