Last year the record for Hong Kong’s most expensive home was broken when a house in the prestigious Peak district changed hands for HK$1.5 billion ($193 million). Local media reports said the buyer was Jack Ma, one of China’s richest men.
That record was shattered again this month as property developer Chen Hongtian splashed HK$2.1 billion for another house atop the Peak.
Chen was born in Guangdong’s Foshan in 1959 to a family with a military background. His Chinese name literally means ‘red sky’ and he couldn’t escape the same fate of teenagers in the red era. That meant that after graduating high school in 1976 he was sent to a fish farm in Foshan as the last crop of students dispatched to rural China. But fate was kinder to Chen than his seniors as the Cultural Revolution ended that same year.
According to his autobiography The World of Red Dust: A Bird’s Eye View, he took up a number of odd jobs in Guangdong during China’s early reform era. In 1979 Chen founded a workshop to train tailors after teaching himself the trade for two weeks. He then joined a local school as a teacher while working as an amateur table tennis coach.
In 1984 Chen was recruited by a state trading firm in Shenzhen. Six years later he set up Cheung Kei Group which began in the garment industry but later ventured into real estate development in Shenzhen and southern China.
Chen managed to survive several boom-bust cycles in China’s property market and has since built one of Shenzhen’s largest property conglomerates. He is the biggest shareholder of the Hong Kong-listed developer China South City. Hurun estimates that his net worth is Rmb16 billion ($2.4 billion).
Need to know
Chen is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). He has pulled together 30 or so CPPCC billionaires who are active in Shenzhen and Hong Kong to establish the Shenzhen Harmony Club. The club’s members include Tencent’s chairman Pony Ma as well as Wang Chuanfu, the founder of electric car maker BYD.
And Chen’s not shy about telling others he is mega rich. Speaking to South China Morning Post, he said of his recent acquisition on the Peak: “I initially planned to move into the home I bought for HK$380 million last year. But I felt it was a little bit too tiny for my family and I would need to live in a bigger one later on. That’s why I bought this house.” The tiny property in question is a 5,000 square foot apartment in one of Hong Kong’s one of most prestigious residential blocks.
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