STAR-BULLETIN FILE PHOTO / 1990
Elusive billionaire leaves a trail of unpredictability
Approaching private homeowners unexpectedly to make a cash offer is a trademark of Gensiro Kawamoto.
Many of the Kahala homes he owns today were not on the Multiple Listing Service. The Japanese tycoon usually has an entourage of representatives who broach the deals for him.
But Kawamoto's representatives are a moving target, given that he's enlisted a steady turnover of real estate agents, property managers and interpreters over the years.
One Japanese Realtor, who declined to be identified, said she would never do business with him again. "I wash my hands clean of him," she said.
Best described as unpredictable, Kawamoto made his fortune in Japanese real estate, and made local headlines when he casually bought close to 200 Hawaii properties, mostly on Oahu, at inflated prices. At the time, Kawamoto is said to have been driven around in a limousine, casually pointing to the homes he wanted to purchase.
In 2002, he announced he would sell half of his holdings in Hawaii, giving hundreds of tenants 45 days notice to move. The mass sale stretched to California, where Kawamoto announced he would sell some 600 homes, giving tenants 30 days notice.
Kawamoto entertained the idea of being a developer in Hawaii, but his projects never came to fruition. Plans for a 900-home subdivision on the slopes of Haleakala on Maui a decade ago were withdrawn. Last year, he sold off a 1.6-acre Kakaako parcel to ABC Stores, finally giving up on earlier plans to build a residential tower.
Carol Asai-Sato, then an attorney with Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, stood by his side as a representative through the Japanese boom in the 1980s, and then during the mass eviction of tenants from Hawaii and California homes. But in November 2002, the two had a falling out.
Her law license today is listed as inactive.
Kawamoto then went to Carlsmith Ball, which is the firm representing him on the two pending lawsuits today.
Today, the King of Kahala remains elusive and unpredictable.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
This home at 4744 Kahala Ave. remains empty with shriveled plants and a dying landscape.
KAWAMOTO'S RECENT ACQUISITIONS
|4585 Kahala Ave.
|4823 Kahala Ave.
|4767D Kahala Ave.
|4631A Kahala Ave.
|4851 Kahala Ave.
|4332 Kahala Ave.
|4834 Kahala Ave.
|4744 Kahala Ave.
|4635 Kahala Ave.
|4398 Kahala Ave.
Source: Honolulu County property tax records