As Asia's richest and most influential investor, Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing has a fortune valued at $23 billion in Forbes magazine's latest world billionaire rankings, which makes him the ninth richest person in the world.
The 79-year-old controls a real estate developer, a cell phone provider, retailers, a major supplier of electricity to Hong Kong and the world's largest operator of container terminals.
Born in Guangdong Province, he fled with his family to Hong Kong in 1940 when Japanese forces launched their invasion of south China during World War II. As a high school drop out, Li had to support his family, including his widowed mother and three younger siblings by doing manual work at the age of 14. Li began his rise in the business world founding a Hong Kong plastics firm and burst onto the public stage in 1979, when he made a deal giving him control of the ailing British-owned conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.
Li's legions of fans admire his rags-to-riches story, work ethics, soft-spoken business style, business shrewdness and nose for buying and selling at just the right time. Li has further burnished his reputation by becoming perhaps Asia's most prominent philanthropist, who has pledged to donate one third of his wealth to the Li Ka-shing Foundation, a private fund he established purely for charitable purposes. Up to 2001, Shantou University, in Li's hometown in Guangdong and considered a life-time commitment by Li, had received over HK$ 2 billion in donations since its founding in 1981.