Asia’s billionaire families start to make way for women successors

Sonia Cheng

Asia’s billionaire family boardrooms are making way for heiresses.

Michelle Li, the 23-year-old granddaughter of Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest person, has joined him, her father and uncle on the board of Chesterfield Realty Inc., a family-controlled unit of CK Hutchinson Holdings, according to the Hong Kong Company Registry.

She’s among third-generation women being groomed for leadership at conglomerates created by some of Hong Kong’s wealthiest patriarchs. While her father, Victor Li, took the reins last year from Li Ka-shing, 90, as chairman of the group’s flagship companies, her appointment shows that succession planning is already under way for a generation from now.

Harvard University graduate Sonia Cheng runs the Rosewood Hotels arm of New World Development Co., founded by her grandfather Cheng Yu-tung. Kristine Li, the eldest granddaughter of property tycoon Lee Shau Kee, studied at Stanford University and is a deputy general manager at Henderson Land Development Co.

Glass Ceiling

“These women have a lot to contribute and could become good role models if they take up leadership,” said Petula Ho, a professor in the department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong, where 2 of 10 professors are women. “But this is very class-biased and they come from really rich families. For others, the glass ceiling is very true. Hong Kong is still a man’s world.”

In China, where fortunes were created more recently, control is only now starting to be handed to the second generation, many of them women.

Yang Huiyan, co-chairman of Country Garden Holdings Co., was only 23 in 2005 when she inherited her father’s stake in the real estate developer. The Ohio State University graduate is now worth $19.2 billion and China’s richest woman, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 wealthiest people.

Theresa Tse, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, was 22 in 2015 when she became chairwoman of her father’s Sino Biopharmaceuticals Corp. Her stake is worth $1.1 billion.

Bloomberg

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.