When a record share price made Apple the most valuable company of all time last year, it was unthinkable for Foxconn to contemplate life beyond the US giant.
But Jia Yueting, founder of online entertainment firm LeTV, needed just five minutes to convince Foxconn boss Terry Guo that he should be doing just that.
Born in 1973, Jia’s first job after university was at a tax bureau in Shanxi. He quit a year later and joined one of the many coal mining firms in the inland province. In 2002 he switched tack, launching his own business selling telecoms equipment to state-owned firms. That venture would later become Sinotel Technologies, which went public in Singapore five years later.
In 2003, Jia met Liu Hong, then a TV reporter covering telecoms news. The two founded LeTV (Liu is chief operating officer). With Youtube copycats already crowding the market, LeTV instead adopted the subscription model used by another US firm, Hulu.
LeTV’s business grew quickly and it floated its online unit Leshi Internet in 2010. The company soon began to produce its own TV content too (see WiC209). Thanks to a 220% spike in Leshi’s share price this year, Hurun last month ranked Jia as China’s 44th richest man with a net worth of $3 billion.
Big break two?
LeTV has other unlisted assets, such as a wine-trading website, a movie production house and perhaps most promisingly, a smart TV division (Foxconn makes the devices and is a strategic investor).
The Foxconn deal came about in June 2012, when Jia attended an event at which Terry Guo was guest of honour. When Jia asked for a meeting with the Foxconn chairman, Guo gave him five minutes before dinner. Jia grabbed the chance to wax lyrical about how Foxconn could beat Samsung with LeTV’s “complete ecological model”, linking electronic gadgets and their content to interactive TV. Guo’s interest was piqued and Jia ended up spending an entire week at Foxconn’s headquarters negotiating a strategic partnership.
Need to know
In March, Foxconn announced that it will manufacture LeTV’s Super TV (see WiC194) and took a 20% stake in the LeTV unit. Another angel investor in the smart TV operation is Lee Kai-fu, the former head of Google China.
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