Li Shufu was born into a farming family. His career as an industrialist began in making spare parts for refrigerators in 1984. He then switched to aluminium bending board, before moving on to produce the first Geely motorcycle in 1994.
In 1997, Li announced he was going into the car industry, a move opposed by many friends and family. He wasn’t daunted, regarding a car as no more than “four wheels plus a sofa”. Perhaps he was right. The 46 year-old businessman built China’s biggest private car firm within a decade.
Geely was listed in Hong Kong in 2004. Last year it doubled profit to Rmb879 million ($129 million). The company – which makes compact cars that sell for as little as $6,000 – has an annual capacity of 400,000 units. By 2015 it wants to sell two million cars annually, two thirds as exports.
In the news?
Geely is rumoured as potential buyer of Ford’s up-for-sale Volvo car unit. Less flattering headlines were prompted by a recent showcasing of a prototype Geely luxury car that looked almost identical to a Rolls-Royce Phantom (see WiC16).
In his own words
No shortage of quips from Li, who once compared carmaking to “suicide”. More mysteriously: “Growing a car industry is like growing one tree slowly to cover a whole forest.”
And apart from business?
He is one of China’s most prominent philanthropists and invested Rmb800 million in the nation’s largest private university, Beijing Geely University. He also writes songs: ‘Sending you luck” even won a national award.
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