Known to many as the Tropical Tycoon, Nely Galán is a successful media proprietor who took advantage of several opportunities in the United States to create her wealth.
Born in Cuba, Galán and her family immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1960s when she was five. Today at 52, Galán, is an Emmy-Award winning producer of hundreds of Spanish and English television series, including the 2004 hit reality series “The Swan.” As the former President of Telemundo, one of the largest Spanish broadcasting networks in North America, Galán became the first Hispanic woman to ever head a U.S. television network. She also appeared on the first season of Donald Trump's “Celebrity Apprentice” alongside the notorious boardroom villain, Omarosa.
In addition to being a media mogul, Galán owns a portfolio of residential and commercial real estate across the U.S. as well as a property development and management company. Below is an overview of how Galán entered the media industry and became a multimillionaire.
Early Life in America
Up until the rise of the communist movement in Cuba, Galán's parents had been doing very well for themselves financially. However, during the revolution, they lost everything they had worked for and eventually decided to leave the nation to find better opportunities in the U.S.Galán's family moved to the U.S. around the same time Presbyterian churches throughout the country were adopting Cuban immigrants. They initially settled with a Presbyterian family in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Galán soon realized that her parents were struggling financially to pay for her school tuition, so she looked for ways to help out. A neighbor had offered 10-year-old Galán free cosmetics in exchange for assistance with selling Avon products. Galán saw this as an opportunity to make money and instead convinced her neighbor to share 50% of all the sales she generated. She sold these products at school and made $200 in her first week. A few weeks later, she made enough money to pay for her private school tuition; it was this venture that showed her the power of entrepreneurship. (See also, 10 Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs of the Decade.)
Beginning of Her Career
During her adolescence, Galán was suspended from her all-girls Catholic school because a nun wrongfully believed that she had submitted plagiarized work. Upset about the suspension, Galán wrote a harsh article on why parents should not send their children to parochial schools and submitted it to Seventeen magazine. Six months later, the story was picked up, and Galán received a $100 check as compensation. Upon graduating high school, Galán received a guest editor position at Seventeen.
At the age of 22, Galán became the station manager for WNJU TV, a small television company serving the New York City area that later became the flagship station for the Telemundo network. Three years into her job, the company was sold for $75 million. The owners offered to share $350,000 of the acquisition money with Galán, but she was not happy about the sale. When she confronted her boss to express her displeasure, he responded, ‘‘Young lady, those are my chips. Go and get your own!’'
That is exactly what she did. Twenty-five-year-old Galán took her cut of the sale and used that money to start her first business.
Nely the Entrepreneur
Since she did not know how to write a business plan, Galán called three universities and told them that she was doing a research project and needed samples of well-written business plans. She then used those samples as a model to create a business plan for her own company. (For more, see 4 Steps To Creating A Stellar Business Plan.)
Her original business model was based on producing Spanish content for television networks. After four years of receiving very little interest for her production services, she took on a consultancy job with HBO in order to supplement her income. Galán assisted the company with the launch of HBO Ole in Latin America. That experience helped her realize that American networks needed help with distribution in Spanish markets. She changed her business model as a result.
Soon after the change, Galán managed to sign several multimillion dollar deals with well-established networks, such as ESPN, MGM and Sony. Around that time, billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch was moving to the U.S. He had heard about Galán's success with launching Spanish television networks and contracted her company to create six new channels in Latin America. Murdoch lent Galán $5 million with the stipulation that she could not work with competing television networks until the loan was repaid. All six TV networks were successfully launched and the loan was paid off in two years.
In 1998, Sony Corporation (SNE) and Liberty Media Corporation (QVCA) acquired the popular Spanish broadcasting network, Telemundo. Galán was asked and agreed to head the network's entertainment division. She served as Telemundo's President of Entertainment for three years and later returned to her media business.
Real Estate Acquisitions
One of Galán's most popular quotes is ‘‘Don't buy shoes, buy buildings.’’ When she worked at WNJU, her boss reminded her that minorities often made the mistake of dramatically changing their lifestyle whenever they come across a decent amount of money. Instead of purchasing luxury and fancy items, the majority of the money Galán made from her business was used to acquire commercial real estate buildings. Her first acquisition was the property that housed her company. She subsequently purchased surrounding buildings.
Overall, Galán has made more money in property investing than in her media business. To date, she has been involved in more than $50 million worth of real estate transactions. (For more, see Top Tips for Investing in Commercial Real Estate.)
The Bottom Line
Nely Galán epitomizes the level playing field of opportunities that America provides. She left Cuba, along with her family, in an effort to create a better life. Since being exposed to the world of business at an early age, Galán has consistently found creative ways to make money. Her initial fortune was made by helping American television networks launch in Latin America; however, she amassed her wealth by investing in commercial properties. Today she is a highly respected television producer and a successful real estate investor.