Source of Wealth:Oriental Trading Co.
Birth Place:Omaha, Nebraska
Occupation:Businessman; Former President and CEO of Oriental Trading Co.
Nebraska-born businessman Terrance Watanabe has an estimated net worth of $150 million. He built his fortune through his inheritance of the Nebraska-based Oriental Trading Co. It was founded by his father, Harry Watanabe, as a gift shop that sells party favors and trinkets in 1932. Since then, the company has expanded to 17 shops in the Midwest.
During World War II, when imports from Japan were restricted, the company went back to its Omaha base. Harry Watanabe turned to another business and bought a ceramic shop which made Kewpie dolls and other ceramic items. The company resumed its imports from Japan in 1954 and became a major carnival supplier. It launched its first catalog in 1956.
In 1977, Terrance Watanabe became the president and was responsible for shifting the company’s focus from carnivals to supplying party goods for churches, schools, retailers, and individuals. Oriental Trading became a $300 million enterprise under his leadership. In 2000, he sold his entire stake in the company to Los Angeles-based private equity firm Brentwood Associates and he resigned as the CEO and president. He lost much of his personal wealth during a very public gambling run in 2007, considered one of the biggest losing streaks in Las Vegas history.
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