Pan went to Beijing Petroleum Institute in 1982 and graduated in 1984.
On his graduation in 1984, he was assigned a job in the Pipeline Administration Bureau under the China Ministry of Petroleum. This was a turning point, enabling a rural boy’s dream of being able to work in Beijing to come true. However in 1987 he resigned from his work and started a career in real estate. He first went to Shenzhen to work for the Asia-Pacific Management & Consulting Co., and then to Hainan, where he founded the Hainan Agro High-tech Investment & Development Co., predecessor to the Vantone Company. In 1992, Pan co-founded Beijing Vantone Co. Ltd, and successfully developed several properties in Beijing, including the Vantone New World Plaza, the Air China Tower, and the Vantone Lishan Plaza, later renamed as Central Park. In the early 1990s, real estate in Beijing was a sellers’ market. After adopting the attractive Hong Kong marketing methods regarding his office sales, Pan immediately created a real estate sensation in Beijing. His office space was sold for US$3600 per square meter, which tripled the market price at that time. Within a week, Pan and his partners had sold HK$500 million worth of real estate from one project alone.
In 1995, Pan and his wife co-founded SOHO China Ltd. Together they have developed a variety of projects ranging from business venues with mixed usage in the central business district in Beijing to riverfront luxury villas in Hainan and contemporary private houses designed by avantgarde Asian architects. In 2002, one of the latter was the first Chinese project to win an award at the Venice Biennale. Within Beijing’s real estate circles, Pan’s new concepts are the first word in consumer guidance. His original slogan, ‘Are you ready to SOHO (Small Office, Home Office)?’ and his SOHO New Town project became synonymous with the latest housing trends. It has since been regarded as an ideal office and residential housing project, and media criticism made it even more popular. It seems that anyone who does not ‘SOHO’ is out of touch something quite beyond the pale to today’s trend-conscious Beijingers. Every new project taken by Pan in recent years has been preceded by a completely new architectural concept, which he promotes in a similar way as auto firms do their latest models. Many people buy houses specifically developed by Pan’s company, because they like their avantgarde ambience.
Pan has a unique understanding of the property market. He does not simply pursue the highest sales revenue or the largest development. Instead, he emphasizes the long- term value of his projects.
Although from a poor family background and educated at a little known college, Pan captured the heart of a well-educated young woman, Zhang Xin, who later became his wife. Zhang Xin had received her masters degree from Cambridge University in the UK. When Pan met her, she was working for a famous Wall Street firm, earning a six-figure salary. Pan’s marriage was the talk of the town, and he was presented as a model of success achieved through hard work and diligence.