Robert Kiyosaki’s Real Life Rich Dad: Richard Kimi, The Hotel Industry Pioneer in Hilo, Hawaii

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Freedom Mentor & Curtis Lum

Do you know the real life identity of Robert Kiyosaki‘s Rich Dad? Kiyosaki has kept it a closely guarded secret since the book Rich Dad Poor Dad was first published in 1997. Over the last 18 years, it has become the best selling personal finance book of all time and its main character, Rich Dad, has emerged as the most influential financial adviser in history, changing the way millions of people look at the subject of money. And yet up to this point, the author has never disclosed and very few people know who the real life Rich Dad actually was. An estimated 26 million copies of all the Rich Dad book series are in print, in some 80 different languages and after reading, most people wonder to themselves, “Who was Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad?” You’re about to find out.

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Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad: Richard Kimi

Long before tourism was the state’s No. 1 industry, a young man from Hilo had a vision. In the mid-1950s, Richard Wassman Kimi noticed that the tourists who came to the Big Island arrived on large ships or airplanes, meaning they had money. But the then-29-year-old felt there very few affordable places for local residents who wanted to visit Hilo for a day or two.

So in 1956, despite the naysayers who told him he was crazy, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Richard Kimi built the 30-room Hotel Hukilau in Hilo. The small hotel was one of the first along Banyan Drive, which now is lined with East Hawai’i’s largest hotels, such as the Naniloa and Hilo Hawaiian. Kimi, a visionary and pioneer in the local hotel industry for decades, died Dec. 19 in Honolulu. He was 83.

The Hotel Hukilau catered to the budget-conscious and local residents and was consistently packed. Realizing that his concept was working, Kimi went on to build Hukilau and Seaside hotels in Kona, Maui, and Kaua’i, and he would also purchase the old Waikiki Biltmore Hotel, now the site of the Hyatt Regency. Alan Kimi, Richard’s son and president of Seaside Hotels Hawaii, said his father never wanted to build large hotels. He said his father’s main objective was to serve local residents and budget-minded visitors.

 Richard Kimi: Hotel Pioneer in Hilo, Hawaii

“People traveled by boats in those days and the ones that traveled by plane were rich,” Alan Kimi said. “So his idea was, as the airplanes became bigger, what about the average guy? What about the local traveler, people that lived in Kona, but that wanted to go to Hilo for a couple of days but couldn’t afford it? That’s how it started.” Kimi said his father was one of the first to put together air, room and car packages for residents. He also was a leader in taking reservations via fax machines and toll-free numbers. “Dad’s whole life was keeping things simple,” Kimi said. “When it came to our product, which was a local hotel, it was friendly, and it was clean, and well-maintained and affordable.”


Richard Wassman Kimi was born Feb. 3, 1925, in Hilo and was the son of Territorial Sen. William Kimi. Soon after the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, Richard Kimi The Hotel Pinoeer in Hilo enlisted in the Army, where he was promoted to sergeant at age 19. After the war, Kimi returned to the Big Island and worked for his family business, which sold Army surplus goods. But the business struggled, so Kimi took the Army equipment that wasn’t sold and turned to construction.

“He always thought five to 10 years ahead,” Alan Kimi said. “When we had meetings and said, ‘This is what our quarter was and this is what our last six months were,’ he said, ‘I’m not interested. Just tell me five, 10 years what you guys are going to be doing.’ We were really blessed to have him as a mentor.”

Richard Kimi also enjoyed teaching and sharing his sales, marketing and business knowledge. One of his students was Robert Kiyosaki, author of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” books, who based his original “rich dad” on Kimi, Alan Kimi said. Kimi is survived by his wife, Kathryn; sons, Philip, Alan and Don; daughters, Noe Kimi-Buchanan, Patti Kimi-Woodd, and Kim; brother, Uncle Billy; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Services have been held. Donations may be made to the Hawaii Food Bank.


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