REVEALED: Massive problem with $1.4b Jewel
SIX years after a glittering VIP-studded sales launch, as few as 12 apartments totalling $20 million have settled in the $1.4 billion Jewel development.
Scores of contracts in the striking triple tower are understood to have fallen over in the years since they were signed as the three glistening towers sit all but idle.
The failed sales campaign is the latest puzzling revelation in the history of the project, which sits on the beach at southern Surfers Paradise.
Who has bought in, and what did they pay?
An Emirati racing identity and numerous international buyers are among the dozen people who have actually taken ownership of Jewel residences.
Property records indicate the new owners have bought into tower one of the project, which will eventually have 521 residences across its three towers.
In August 2015, Wanda said more than 40 buyers had put down $5000 deposits to buy into the complex.
In 2018, prices for three-bedroom apartments in tower three started from $3.982 million while two-bedroom apartments started from $2.575 million.
Some of the apartment prices equated to $30,000 per square metre - well above the average rates of central London, New York and Tokyo.
The first apartment successfully sold on October 12, 2015 - going to Fat Chen and Yin Chuen Agnes Wong for $1.08 million.
A week later, Chi Yuen Pang signed a $1.17 million contract and a month after that, a company called Analytics Anomalous, owned by Sydneysider Michael Downward, paid $4.84 million for a 263sq m, 39th-floor apartment, rounding out the sales for 2015.
Most of the sales so far in Jewel were successfully sold in 2016, including two units to Fatma EISH Bahzad and Aref EHY Alyousifi, both for $1.23 million; $1.22 million for Lindsay Hoyes; and a $1.95 million apartment for Tong Man Sou, which settled just a fortnight ago.
Adnan Sultan Saif Al Nuaimi, director-general of Abu Dhabi's lucrative Equestrian Federation, bought a $2.67 million apartment in 2016.
Just one sale was recorded in 2017 - a one-bed, one-bath apartment to Paul Walsh for $910,000, while nothing was recorded as sold by AW Jewel in 2018.
AW Jewel is still listed as owner of 121 apartments.
Two sales settled in 2019 - a $674,000 buy by Niraj and Minakshi Vishnoi and a $1.29 million buy by Sharon and Nabil Namour.
Last year, just one sale settled, a $1.77 million, 15th-floor apartment to Xiao Yan Wang and MPK Super.
When Yuhu took over in early 2018, it flagged major changes for Jewel, which had contracts for fewer than 40 per cent of its available apartments after a two-and-half-year sales campaign.
It's now apparent even that 40 per cent figure was optimistic.
Delays plague project from start
After being approved by Gold Coast City Council in 2011, Ridong announced plans for its then-$900 million Jewel, which it said would be ready in 2014.
However by 2012, there was no action and two wealthy neighbours took the council's approval to the Planning and Environment Court.
The Newman government called in the project in 2012, ending the legal wrangle.
It was two years before anything happened with the site, when China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda, visited the Gold Coast and met with Mayor Tom Tate and property broker Roland Evans and struck a deal to buy into the project.
Demolition of the old buildings on the site began in November 2014, with apartments scheduled to hit the market by January 2015.
Construction commenced in 2015, with units announced as costing up to $15 million each going to market in July of that year.
Wanda began direct flights from Wuhan in China, with the hope of luring wealthy Chinese buyers.
Brookfield Multiplex won more than $500 million of contracts to build Jewel in 2015.
At a glittering launch that year, some attendees dared to whisper the hotel could open in time to host visitors for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
However, the site was still a worksite by the time the Games hit town, with a mid-2019 move-in for residents then touted.
In August 2017, Wanda rejected claims that Jewel was for sale, saying the project was on track.
But in February 2018 sales were put on hold for more than four months after Yuhu Group bought Ridong's share in the project.
In May 2018, it was revealed Jewel faced a major demolition and overhaul job to replace and redo bathrooms.
In 2019, the 900-strong on-site workforce was halted again, sparking union protests.
It was revealed there was 12 months work still to do on the project.
Shifting ownership of the project
The project was sparked by Ridong Group, headed by Tallebudgera billionaire Riyu Li, who spent $81.9m on the Pacific Beach site where Jewel would be built.
Ridong announced a $900 million Jewel project, set for completion in 2014.
Four years later Mr Li sold a 55 per cent share to Chinese development company Wanda Group.
Yuhu Group bought out Ridong's 45 per cent share for around $260 million in February 2018, and Wanda's share later the same year.
Yuhu paid Wanda $1.13 billion, which included Wanda's Circular Quay development in Sydney and its share of Jewel.
Ownership of the project became murkier from there.
Complex company records show Yuhu's Gold Coast and Sydney projects are owned by AW Holding Group, which was itself owned by a company called Cloud Capital, owned by Yuhu's chairman Jiquan "Jimmy" Huang, 25.
Jimmy Huang, an Australian citizen born in Guangzhou, stepped in as head of Yuhu in February 2019 after Australia's intelligence agency flagged possible national security concerns over his billionaire father Huang Xiangmo.
Then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull used parliamentary privilege to describe Huang Xiangmo as an "agent of a foreign country".
He was linked to a donations scandal that engulfed the Labor Party culminating in the resignation of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.
Jewel owner AW Holdings is now majority held by China-born Sydneysider Bo Zhang. Other owners include 39-year-old Auckland resident Weimin Wang and 30-year-old Jieqiong Wang, who has an address in Shenzen.
AW Holdings business manager Bryan Ge did not return phone calls on Friday.
Who's made money?
So far, it appears the only party to make any serious money from the project has been billionaire Riyu Li's Ridong Group - and it didn't even use its own cash to buy in.
Ridong bought the Surfers Paradise site in August 2009 for $81 million from the receiver of failed mortgage fund City Pacific, borrowing money for the purchase from the seller.
Ridong sold 55 per cent of the project to Wanda in 2014, reportedly for $300 million, clearing its debt, turning a profit and retaining 45 per cent of the development
Ridong sold its remaining 45 per cent share to Yuhu Group in February 2018 for an estimated $260 million, ending its lucrative association with the site.
Launch of the hotel, once set to be a "six-star" Wanda Hotel, has also been delayed by several years.
Luxury group Langham Hotels signed up to run the 169-room, five-star hotel in Jewel's middle 49-storey tower, but required a major renovation before it could move in.
The middle tower is also the project's tallest and Langham will also manage 170 serviced apartments between the 22nd and top floor with the rooms and suites for the hotel between the third and 20th level.
It is now expected to open for Christmas this year.
Originally published as REVEALED: Massive problem with $1.4b Jewel