Bill Heinecke was 42 when he did something drastic: He walked into the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, handed over his passport and renounced his citizenship.
It wasn't a moment of madness, nor was it strictly necessary: The American-born entrepreneur had by then been living and working in Thailand for almost three decades. But it did showcase what he says is one of the most important skills in business — commitment — and, as a result, propelled him up the ranks of the country's rich list.
"I remember the time very well," the now-69-year-old self-made billionaire said during a recent episode of CNBC's "Managing Asia."
"I remember the counselor who said to me: 'I think you have to rethink this, you know. I've never seen or heard of anyone who wanted to give back their citizenship.'"
But Heinecke was resolute: "I said: 'Well I've made up my mind and I, you know, I don't need to wait.'"
Heinecke is the chairman and CEO of hospitality group Minor International, the company he founded as a cleaning business when he was 17 — still a minor — four years after relocating to Bangkok with his family. Throughout his 20s and 30s, it evolved into one of Thailand's leading hospitality chains, and Heinecke said he felt he owed it to the country that "adopted" him to show his dedication to doing business there.