Li Ka Shing

Chairman -- Hutchison Whampoa/Cheung Kong -- Hong Kong

Superman, as the press dubs Li Ka-shing, has stunned even his biggest fans: He sold off his British telecom operator, Orange PLC, in a two-step transaction late last year and parlayed the investment into a $22 billion profit for shareholders. Then, before the dust settled, Li's Hutchison Whampoa bought a next-generation mobile phone license in Britain for a modest fee. The moves follow a pattern of savvy business practices that has served the 71-year-old tycoon well over the years and allowed him to become one of the few Asian businessmen with the ability to play on the global stage. Li's empire started with manufacturing plastic flowers back in 1950 and could have ended with Li simply retiring rich as one of Hong Kong's top property developers. But Li, a master networker, has parlayed his local success into a global empire. His telecom networks range from Australia to the U.S. to the Middle East. And he owns the world's largest independent port operator, with handling facilities from Jakarta to the Panama Canal to Britain.

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