For Boliang Mai, one of China’s most successful businessmen and a political influencer, it was probably an easy decision to send the heir of his fortune to Melbourne to further his education.
High school at prestigious Scotch College and a degree at the nation’s top-ranked University of Melbourne would be a satisfactory stepping stone to take the reins of a family-owned property development business.
But what if the scion fooled everyone along the way?
Michael Mai, 33, appears to have made misleading statements about his academic record while using at least $40 million of his father’s money to build a property development empire in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. He has tapped his father’s wealth to start an Australian property company, ICD Property, which manages assets totalling $1.7 billion.
In promoting his company, Mr Mai, who moved to Australia when he was 15, told several media outlets, including The Australian, he completed a commerce and engineering degree at the University of Melbourne. He also credits the university on his LinkedIn account.
The Australian has learned Mr Mai failed most of his subjects and never completed his degree.
He has no formal qualifications from Melbourne University, though he has been photographed with his father wearing academic regalia.
Mr Mai’s company is building one of Melbourne’s tallest towers, EQ Tower, and has won a tender to build a $200m apartment and hotel tower on top of the City Tattersalls headquarters in the Sydney CBD.
His father is the president of the partly state-owned shipping giant China International Marine Containers Group, which he has grown into a global empire since 1992.
University of Melbourne declined to comment, citing privacy law. Asked if a picture of Mr Mai with his father was likely taken at the university, a spokesman said: “It does look very similar to our Old Quad.” The allegations were put to Mr Mai, who did not respond in time for publication.
His academic record, seen by The Australian, shows he passed three out of 19 subjects at the University of Melbourne. His best mark was 58 out of 100, in first-year mathematics and accounting subjects. Mr Mai’s other pass mark, 52, was in a first-year subject, Introduction to Mechanical Engineering.
He enrolled under his Chinese name, Tao Mai.
Bank transfers seen by The Australian show that two Australian companies Mr Mai controls received a total of $40m from his father between 2009 and 2013. The money was transferred from Boliang Mai’s HSBC bank account in Hong Kong.
In several articles, Mr Mai appears to have told News Corporation and the ABC he had completed a degree as he sought to increase the profile of ICD Property while it was marketing off-the-plan apartments.
The company was also seeking financial backers and joint venture partners, which it has since gained with China’s Sino-Ocean Land, Melbourne’s Sinclair Brook and Sydney’s EG Funds Management.
Mr Mai last year was quoted in CEO Magazine saying: “Then I went to Melbourne University and graduated with commerce and engineering degrees, but shortly after that — in 2008 — we were all hit by the financial crisis.”
Boliang Mai was named by Fortune magazine in China as one of the nation’s 25 most influential businessmen.