Li Ka-shing: Hong Kong’s Wealthiest Individual and His Rags to Riches Story

While Asian business tycoon Li Ka-shing is Hong Kong’s wealthiest individual, his influence extends across the world. Nicknamed “Superman” for his business acumen, the 89-year-old entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist has a net worth of about $33.5 billion and business interests spanning across over 50 countries.

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Li Ka-shing’s rise to become one of the world’s most successful businessmen and investors is of the “rags-to-riches” type. As a young boy, Li fled China for Hong Kong during the Sino-Japanese war. After his father died from tuberculosis, Li dropped out of school at age 12 to become an apprentice at a factory. Two years later, he was working full time at a plastic trading company, prompting him to start a business making plastic toys and other items.

Li, an early investor in Facebook Inc. and other disruptive tech firms, has since built a massive business empire through CK Hutchinson Holdings and CK Property Holdings. Recently, he has doubled down on investments in Europe, where he has funneled a whopping $28 billion in five years, according to Forbes. In January, CKI announced a $5.5 billion deal to acquire Australian electricity and pipeline company Duet.

Amassing so much wealth prompted Li to start his own philanthropic foundation, Li Ka Shing Foundation, which he committed one third of his assets to and says he views as another child of his.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Li shed light on best business practices, noting that leaders should never be set in their ways and that they should remain very careful with their cash flow. “I have the extra capital to get into another industry whenever I want to,” he explained.

He spoke to the “race against time to learn more,” putting an emphasis on lifelong learning as a necessary ingredient to building a business, more so than money. “I started my own business in 1950. I only had some of my savings and some money borrowed from my relatives. I had about $6,500 to start my business,” he recalls.

The business magnate emphasizes the importance of strategically planning for the future, indicating that he spent 20-30% of his time in the factory and the rest of his time devising what he should do in the future.

“This is my life. I seek improvement ceaselessly, I don’t stop, event at this age,” said Li, who after decades in the business spotlight remains content and upbeat about the future. “I’m happy. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t have been doing this for so long.”