Billionaire Li Ka-shing will formally step down on Thursday as head of a business empire he built during a span of nearly seven decades, pacing the rise of Hong Kong from a U.K.-run enclave to today’s bastion of capitalism.
The 89-year-old tycoon, who announced his retirement plans in March, is scheduled to step down as chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. and CK Asset Holdings Ltd. at the companies’ annual general meetings Thursday. His eldest son, 53-year-old Victor Li, will take over.
For decades, Li was the richest man in Hong Kong — and often Asia. His career began in 1950 as plastic-flowers manufacturer, which he then transformed into a global conglomerate spanning real estate, infrastructure, retail, ports and telecommunications.
The outgoing mogul, who’s often referred to as “Superman” in Hong Kong for his business acumen, was born July 29, 1928 in Chaozhou, a city in southern China’s Guangdong Province. His father was a school principal but the younger Li’s formal education stopped at high school as invading Japanese troops reached Guangdong. Fleeing war-torn China for Hong Kong in 1940, Li found factory work while also caring for his ailing father, who soon died from tuberculosis.
Technically, Li won’t step aside entirely. When he announced his retirement in March, the multibillionaire said he intended to keep offering his services as a senior adviser for the princely sum of HK$5,000 ($637) a year.