Alibaba’s Jack Ma tops China rich list

BY Jamil Anderlini | FROM Financial Times | 2014-09-23 15:15

  September 23, 2014 4:49 am

  Internet billionaires account for five of China’s 10 richest people, with Alibaba founder Jack Ma now the country’s richest person following his company’s listing in the biggest initial public offering in history last Friday.

  The rise of Chinese technology titans saw three of them, led by Mr Ma, enter the top 10 list for the first time, according to the annual Hurun Report Rich List, one of the most accurate snapshots of wealth in the country.

  The other two new entrants were Lei Jun, founder of smartphone maker Xiaomi, and Richard Liu Qiangdong, founder of online retailer

  They joined Robin Li, co-founder of Chinese search group Baidu, and Pony Ma, founder of Alibaba arch-rival Tencent, both of whom were included in the top 10 last year.

  The increase in IT wealth has eclipsed the traditional source of riches in China.

  In a reflection of troubles in the Chinese real estate market, four of the six property tycoons who featured in last year’s top 10 list were pushed out this year.

  Wang Jianlin, chairman of property developer Wanda and last year’s richest person, was relegated to second place this year, behind Mr Ma, while real estate and Red Bull tycoon Yan Bin hung on at number eight, down two spots from last year.

  There are now 354 dollar billionaires in China, 39 more than last year and up from just three a decade ago, according to Hurun, which has been compiling the list for the past 16 years.

  The total wealth of the 1,271 people on the entire rich list comes to $1.4tn this year, more than the entire gross domestic product of Spain or South Korea.

  To make it on to the list of China’s 100 richest, individuals or families needed at least $2.3bn this year, or more than 15 times the cut-off 10 years ago.

  In a sign of how China’s wealthy are becoming more international, four of the people in the top 10 this year are fluent English speakers, led by Mr Ma who began his working life as an English teacher.

  For two consecutive years, five of the top 10 people on the Hurun rich list have been new faces, reflecting the dynamism of the Chinese economy and the speed at which fortunes are being made in the world’s second-largest economy.

  Of the total list of 1,271 people, 819 saw their wealth increase in the past year in spite of decelerating growth in the Chinese economy.

  China’s strident anti-corruption campaign, which has ratcheted up over the past year, has also snared some of the country’s wealthiest people, with 17 of the 1,000 people on last year’s rich list involved in varying degrees of trouble with the authorities.

  In a country where superstition plays an important role in business, it seems that certain star signs are more conducive to the accumulation of great wealth.

  For many years, people born in the year of the rabbit have made up the bulk of the Hurun rich list, while those born in the years of the oxen, rat and pig have accounted for the smallest number of super-wealthy in China.

  Jack Ma was born in the year of the dragon, traditionally considered the most auspicious and powerful sign in the Chinese zodiac. Dragons make up the second largest group on the annual rich list, followed by snakes.


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