“Twenty-two years ago, I made a decision. That decision has technically taken me off Rich Lists of all sorts. Yet it has also given me peace of mind,” Wang Shi, founder of Vanke, China’s second largest property developer by sales, wrote in a letter in 2011.
Wang was referring to his request that a third-party entity take ownership of the original ‘employee shares’ granted by a 1988 restructuring that transformed the state-owned enterprise where he worked into a joint-stock company.
In fact, Wang says he has been searching for a worthy cause to donate some of this valuable stock for years, and that he found it during the coronavirus outbreak.
On April 2 the Vanke Founding Shareholders’ Equity Management Centre – which manages 200 million shares owned by the original employees in the property giant – announced that it had donated its entire holding to one of Tsinghua University’s education funds. The donation will lead to the establishment of a public health research institute focusing on preventative medicine, Big Data and public health management. Margaret Chan, a former director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Hong Kong director of health at the time of the SARS outbreak, will be its first dean, while Wang will join as an honorary director.
According to Huxiu, an online news outlet, the donation was prompted by an appeal from Dong Chen, the dean of Tsinghua’s School of Medicine, after learning that Vanke’s philanthropic arm had contributed Rmb100 million to the Wuhan Red Cross in January.
“There is a divergence between [China’s] economic progress and development in public hygiene as well as disease prevention and control systems. There is also a lack of [medical] professionals with integrated skills,” said the professor, hoping that Vanke could support the school’s research efforts, especially in the area of infectious diseases.
Under the guardianship of the Equity Management Centre, the Vanke share pot, which made up 40% of the company’s total equity 32 years ago, had grown over 1,019 times in value to Rmb5.3 billion ($750 million) as of April 2.
Wang emphasised that the donation – the largest ever to an educational institution in China – was not bestowed in the name of the company, and that Vanke is not expecting any commercial return from it.
Instead he said he hoped that the school could put China on the map as a world-class centre for epidemic research and vaccine development.
The charitable contribution has won applause from netizens, and it has been compared favourably with the efforts of Pan Shiyi, boss of property giant SOHO China, who has been widely criticised for what critics saw as doing too little to aid the fight against Covid-19 (see WiC484).
Keeping track, Apr 1, 2020: We reported in WiC491 that Wang Shi, founder of Shenzhen-based property giant Vanke, had recently made donations worth Rmb5.3 billion ($750 million) to Tsinghua University via transferring the entire holdings of the Vanke Founding Shareholders’ Equity Management Centre. The deed has won kudos among netizens as it is one of the most generous and significant acts of largesse during the coronavirus outbreak and will fund a school of public health. But Han Shitong, a former employee and currently executive chairman of the Guangdong Real Estate Research Association, however, disagreed. In the past month Han published four articles questioning Wang’s legitimacy to represent Vanke’s employees, and finally lodged a complaint to the country’s securities watchdog on April 20, accusing Wang of infringing the rights and interests of all Vanke employees. He warned too of starting a public interest litigation process should the complaint fall on deaf ears.
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