Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, backed his heir Victor to make a success of running the $68 billion property-to-ports empire and pledged to provide other son Richard with funding “any time.”
The 84-year-old last month transferred Richard’s stake in the family trust that controls Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and flagship developer Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. to Victor.
The elder Li has been nicknamed “Superman” by the local media after building Cheung Kong from a plastic flower factory he opened after World War II into Hong Kong’s second-biggest developer. A smooth succession at Hutchison is critical for a group with investments in ports, telecommunications, utilities, retail, property and energy in more than 50 countries.
“Li Ka-shing trusts Victor,” said Francis Lun, managing director at Lyncean Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based brokerage. “Victor is frugal and after helping his father for such a long time, he knows how to handle the business.”
Li Ka-shing, 14th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $24.1 billion, has so far given no indication that he plans to retire from running the companies.
Victor Li, 48, is currently deputy chairman of Cheung Kong, a position he’s held since 1994.
“He has followed me for over twenty years,” the elder Li said of Victor at a briefing yesterday. “His character is similar with mine and he is prudent when dealing with things.”
He said in May that Victor Li will run Cheung Kong and Hutchison in the future and that he will offer financial support to allow Richard Li, 45, to build businesses outside of the family’s companies.
“Richard has his own business and he has a couple of other business with good prospect,” the elder Li said yesterday. “I shall do my best to support him. I have the cash in the bank and he can take it anytime. It’s for him but I’m not encouraging him to take them all now.”
Richard Li, chairman of Hong Kong fixed-line operator PCCW Ltd., acquired a fund management firm from American International Group Inc. in 2010 and has pursued an independent business career since quitting as a director of Hutchison Whampoa in 2000. He is in talks with “several sizeable enterprises” for possible acquisitions, the elder Li said in May, without identifying the targets.
PCCW, which owns assets including the Now Broadband pay-television unit and a controlling stake in developer Pacific Century Premium Developments Ltd., has risen 6 percent since Li Ka-shing announced the succession plan on May 25, compared with the 5 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
Victor Li was kidnapped in the 1990s by Hong Kong gang boss Cheung Tze-keung, nicknamed “Big Spender,” according to local media reports. Cheung was sentenced to death in 1998 after being tried by authorities in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou for a series of crimes including the kidnapping of Walter Kwok, then chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., Hong Kong’s biggest developer by value.
Victor Li’s holdings in the trust will increase to about HK$290 billion, a spokeswoman for Cheung Kong said on July 20.