Who’s Hu

Li Hua

The real estate mogul linked to JD.com’s founder


A self-made man, Li Hua (Li Wa in Cantonese) has moved into the public eye because of rape allegations against one of his close friends. JD.com’s Richard Liu continues to face criminal charges in the US (see WiC424) and Reuters reports that the alleged victim was asked to speak to Li about a settlement with the e-commerce tycoon. Reuters does not explain why Li was the person to go to, save for a source saying he was trusted by Liu and that they both attended the doctor of business administration programme at the University of Minnesota in August, where the attack was reported to have happened. Yet the revelation immediately drew attention to Li and his massive interests in Shenzhen’s real estate market.

Getting started

Born in 1966 to a scholarly family in Sichuan, Li graduated from the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou at the age of 18. An engineer by training, he started his career as a secretary to affiliates of the Communist Youth League in Shenzhen. He is said to have shortened his original name – Li Xiaohua – at this time. Five years later he turned to the private sector amid a series of economic reforms. He tried to profit from Hainan’s property market, but the bubble burst, forcing him to shift his attention to Hong Kong, where he made his first fortune – reportedly in the stock market.

Big break

In 1996 Li returned to Shenzhen and moved into the commercial property sector. Through his flagship Excellence Real Estate Group, he bought up plots of land in the central business district. Many of the office towers he then built serve as the headquarters of prominent companies today, including Tencent. By 2009, Excellence Real Estate was the largest private commercial property developer in Shenzhen, according to an initial public offering filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange. The IPO fell through as the global financial crisis erupted. Yet it proved just a blip in Excellence’s development. In 2013 it set new records for land prices in Shenzhen by bidding for two plots in the Qianhai district for Rmb12.38 billion ($1.79 billion). And last year Li’s company raked in Rmb45.6 billion in sales, with its footprint spreading across 25 cities in China. The rapid expansion was partly attributed to poaching talent from top-tier homebuilder Vanke, according to Huxiu, a news portal.

An active investor, Li has stakes in various new-economy companies such as film producer Le Vision Pictures, restaurant rating app Dazhong Dianping and fresh food e-commerce platform Yiguo.com, reported Sina.

With an estimated net worth of $3.6 billion, Li was ranked 67th on Forbes China Rich List as of March.

Need to know

Similar to JD.com’s Liu, Li is with a girl at least 20 years his junior (see WiC231 for more about Liu’s wife, “Milk Tea Girl”). Born in Hebei’s Zhangjiakou, Li’s wife Tong Xiaoyan reportedly pulled out of the 2009 ATV Miss Asia Pageant on Li’s advice. Three years later the couple had a daughter.

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