It was European Budget Rent-A-Car, though, that made Dekker's fortune. "We bought Budget from a bankrupt company. Then it was 200 old cars. We grew that into 25,000 cars in BeNeLux." With Padget doing the operational nuts and bolts, Dekker introduced innovations. "We closed all the repair shops and talked manufac­turers into selling us new cars as advertising - but for only nine months, so we never repaired cars. It was a totally new approach to building a fleet. And we gave people cellphones in the cars. Since we rented to travelers from all over the world, they called all over and we made more money off the phones than the cars, of course.

"We paid $20,000 for the company in 1981. We sold it in 1996 for $600 million."

During Dekker's five-year bout with cancer, though, he not only started on the road to fantastic material success but, conversely, "detached from materialistic achievements. I learned there's no importance to it, to anything except now, the moment. That's why I've become a greater risk-taker than most people. And maybe why I've become a great giver."

Both a risk to himself (initially) and a gift, financially, to Curaçao (eventually) as well as to himself, the Kura Hulanda project began impulsively after a visit to friends in Willemstad, just then designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. "I was there just for the weekend, but they showed me everything. Everyone went to the yacht harbor and that kind of stuff with the big villas, not to Otrabanda. I thought, that looks like a neighborhood that needs a little renovation, doesn't it? It was an opportunity!" he says of his impetus to begin Kura Hulanda. "I bought the ruins of one house in 1997, and fixed it. And then I bought another hundred. It was like you get into a marriage and then you finish up with 10 children."