Born in Chongqing in 1965, Yu Yu moved to Beijing at an early age. After graduating with an English degree from the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute, she went to the US. By 1992, she had earned an MBA from New York University and a year later she launched her own financial consultancy. Her time in the US came to an end when she met Li Guoqing, her future husband and business partner. They married, and in 1998, Li moved back to China.
All in print
Yu started to help Li run his publishing company, and although she had no experience of the internet business, she decided that the company would do better as a website, Dangdang. With around 50 online bookstores in China in the late nineties, it was crowded space. But Dangdang managed to get $6 million worth of seed capital. Although some of its competitors got more cash from investors, Dangdang – and its competitor Joyo – emerged as the dominant players.
Not for sale
Dangdang’s success did not go unnoticed. In late 2003, Amazon.com expressed an interest in purchasing the company. While Yu was happy to take them on as a strategic investor, the US company’s desire for a majority stake did not gel with her plans. In the end Amazon.com paid $70 million for Joyo, which remains Dangdang’s largest competitor.
Money for expansion…
Dangdang’s quickly became a major online presence: it has surpassed established bookshops such as Sanlian Bookstore to become the country’s largest book retailer. But like Amazon, it’s also moved beyond books. That expansion requires cash and the company’s recent US-listing brought in $272 million. Yu says that the company will invest in logistics infrastructure, so that parcels get to the customer quicker.
…but not enough for everyone
Although Dangdang’s shares have doubled in value since their debut in December, Yu’s husband and CEO believes that one of the underwriters, Morgan Stanley, undervalued the company. A view that he made public when he published them last week on a Chinese microblog site. The coarse language has shocked onlookers. On Wednesday, Yu Yu chastised her husband’s remarks in the National Business Daily: “As the CEO and our child’s father, he shouldn’t use foul language.”
After the IPO, Yu Yu and Li Guoqing personal stakes are valued at Rmb3.2 billion.
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