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As Lee Shau Kee stepped down as chairman of Henderson Land Development after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 28, he did so with yet one more accolade–he had finally become the wealthiest person in Hong Kong. Fellow billionaire Li Ka-shing had maintained his position at the top of Hong Kong’s wealth rankings ever since the inaugural list was published in 2008, but Li’s net worth had declined to $29.6 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List, whereas Lee’s has risen to $31.9 billion.
Both tycoons belong to the first generation of Hong Kong’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, the majority of whom made their fortunes in real estate in the 1960s, but Lee was the last of the “big four” families to pass control of his empire to his heirs.
The real estate businesses that have long dominated Hong Kong’s wealth rankings include Lee’s Henderson Land along with the other Li’s CK Assets, Cheng Yu-tung’s New World Development and Kwok Tak-seng’s Sun Hung Kai Properties.
Lee will remain as an executive director of Henderson Land, and his two sons, Peter Lee Ka-kit, 56, and Martin Lee Ka-shing, 48, will take over as joint chairmen and managing directors, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing.
“I always told my sons they were lucky because they could discuss and give each other advice,” the elder Lee said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Two heads are better than one. They have a much easier life than I did when building up Henderson Land.”
Founded by Lee in 1976, Henderson Land can take credit for building iconic skyscrapers like Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre and the World Financial Centre in Beijing.
Today, the company has a market value of HK$216.32 billion ($27.5 billion) which is just above CK Asset’s HK$216.06 billion but well below Sun Hung Kai’s HK$388.25 billion. Lee’s property giant now makes up the bulk of his wealth.
Born in 1928, Lee is known as “Fourth Uncle” for being the fourth-born child in a family from Shunde in Guangdong province. Lee recounted that they were so poor that they could only afford to eat fish or meat twice a month. He came to Hong Kong when he was 20 years old.
He initially traded in precious metals and currencies before moving into real estate. Lee cofounded Sun Hung Kai with Fung King Hey and Kwok Tak-Seng, the father of Hong Kong’s billionaire Kwok brothers, but the trio eventually parted ways.
Henderson Land found some of its success in Hong Kong’s property market with a focus on acquiring old buildings gradually through auctions and then redeveloping them.
“He has contributed a great deal to Hong Kong’s urban regeneration, which is a very long process and hasn’t attracted much interest from other developers,” said Nicole Wong, CLSA’s regional head of property research.
More recently, Henderson Land became the owner of the world’s most expensive land plot when it acquired the Murray Road car park in central Hong Kong with a bid of HK$23.28 billion ($3 billion) in 2017. The developer plans to turn the site into a single landmark Grade A office building by 2022.
A dedicated philanthropist, Lee has already donated more than $400 million toward education over the years. He has been providing scholarships, building funds and other support to colleges and universities in many different countries.
“The instruction I give to my sons was ‘make more, donate more,’” Lee said in his interview. “While running the business well is essential, they must also continue my charity work in order to give back to society.”
May 28, 2019 at 10:18AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs