Section, Who’s Hu

Liu Yonghao

From Red Guard to billionaire

Liu Yonghao

Liu Yonghao’s life story seems to match much of China’s own transition in recent years.

Born in 1951 in Sichuan, he was 14 when the Cultural Revolution began.

He became a Red Guard, even travelling to Beijing to hear Mao speak. His mother had told him that after this experience he would be blessed and would soon be able to eat his favourite dishes of twice-cooked pork and spicy tofu.

This turned out to be prophetic. By 2001 he was one of China’s richest people and could eat whatever he liked.

Big break

With his three entrepreneurial brothers, Liu’s first opportunity came in 1980 when they opened a street stall over the Lunar New Year. In seven days they had earned more than they made in 10 months tilling the fields as farm hands.

They took the profits and began selling quail eggs. They raised the quails first on their home balcony, but later bought a farm.

What next?

By 1987 the quail business was becoming very competitive so Liu and his brothers decided to invest Rmb10 million into researching how to make a superior pig feed. By 1989 their company Hope was a dominant player in Sichuan, thanks to the fattening ability of their product.

In 1992 Hope went nationwide and has gone on to open plants in neighbouring countries like Vietnam.

Need to know

In Orwell’s Animal Farm, the pigs run the show – so the initial focus on hogs may well have had some merit.

In 1998, after a reorganisation, the New Hope Group listed in Shenzhen. It also began to diversify into real estate, dairy products and finance.

Liu also owns 10% of Minsheng Bank, which is now one of the largest non-state owned financial firms in China.

Minsheng has already listed in Shanghai and plans a Hong Kong IPO.

In his own words

“Running a company is just like the TV show, Survivor.”

Beyond business

Liu grew up very poor – his family couldn’t afford to buy him shoes. Since becoming wealthy he has set up the Guangcai Programme, which supports poverty alleviation in western China.

On time management

Liu says he spends a third of his time running the business, a third speaking at conferences and the remaining third just “thinking”.

A nice luxury to have…

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