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Hong Kong Tycoon Li Ka-shing Retires Shy of 90th Birthday

16 March 2018

Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing announced Friday he was stepping down as chairman of his flagship company CK Hutchison, marking the end of an era for one of the world's most storied tycoons.

Also unlike his rivals, including fellow hongs Swire Pacific and Jardine Matheson, he proved adept at something else: selling assets.

He himself has regularly emphasized the hard work as well as his own drive to educate himself after becoming an apprentice in a watch strap factory at the age of 13, shortly before his father died.

After the announcement of the revamp, when asked if he was preparing to pass the baton to his son, a lively Li said he would have to retire someday.

He will continue to serve as senior advisor to the company, he said.

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It added: "For the past 46 years, Mr Li has led the CK group as chairman on a steady path of diversification and globalisation through organic growth, mergers and acquisitions, and timely strategic reviews and reorganisations at appropriate junctures to maximise value and returns for shareholders".

Li has always had a significant foothold in the UK.

He went on to begin his own plastics company, Cheung Kong Industries, which began his empire.

Li's "rags to riches" story has been an inspiration to many Asian businesspeople.

Li, who will turn 90 in July and is known as "Hong Kong's superman", announced the decision at an earnings briefing on Friday. He will accept 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($638) annually from each business, the same amount as his current annual pay as director.

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His two main companies have a combined market capitalisation of more than $80bn.

While these tycoons still control large swathes of Hong Kong, namely its core property sector, Chinese capital and businesses have become more intertwined with the city's economic fabric, challenging their dominance as the streets are increasingly lined with mainland-backed banks, petrol stations, shops and supermarkets.

"He is worthy of the nickname 'Superman, ' but he may not be suitable as a bellwether for the future", The Global Times, a newspaper close to China's ruling communist party, said in 2015.

But this spurred a hail of criticism from Chinese state-run media amid concerns that the property sales, giving Li's stature as an investor, could exacerbate capital flight from China.

Though rarely accessible in recent years, the bespectacled tycoon enjoys shooting from the hip during public appearances and hasn't shied from making controversial and politically barbed comments. "I'm very happy and very honoured I have had this opportunity".

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Li, though, has fresh challenges in mind.

Hong Kong Tycoon Li Ka-shing Retires Shy of 90th Birthday