Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s “Superman” Calls it Quits

Mar 19, 2018

Li Ka Shing | 2010
Credit EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine / Flickr

Hong Kong’s wealthiest business figure is retiring. The news may not come as a shock; the man the local media call “Superman” is soon going to be 90-years old. But it definitely marks the end of an era. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

It’s no exaggeration to call Li Ka Shing a business legend. He was born in southern China, and at the age of 12 fled to Hong Kong with his family to escape invading Japanese troops. Three years later, his father died of tuberculosis.

Li brought in money sweeping factory floors, then working his way up with 16-hour days at a plastics trading company. He made his first fortune before the age of 30 in the plastic flower business.

Another critical moment came in the 1960’s.

The Cultural Revolution shook the mainland, sparking riots in Hong Kong, tanking the local real estate market.

Li bought property—a lot of it. Building the base of an empire that grew to investments in more than 50 countries; everything from office buildings and apartments to port facilities and energy companies, mobile phone operators, retail stores and more.

As mainland China began to crack open to the outside, Li became politically well-connected in Beijing—some critics said a little too well-connected.

Li Ka Shing has always called himself a realist. He invested early in Facebook. And Spotify. And more recently, in a start-up that uses Artificial Intelligence to tell the difference among various dialects of the Chinese language.

Li Ka Shing in EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine, 2010
Credit EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine / Flickr

The 89-year old billionaire still plans on being an adviser as his son takes over the business.

Advice for young people?

“They must bolster their competitiveness through the accumulation of knowledge.”