There is a famous Chinese saying that “wealth never survives three generations”.
That may apply in mainland China, but not in the rest of Asia.
That may be why no mainland-based family made it onto the first Forbes magazine list of the 50 Richest Families in Asia, which covers fortunes that extend at least three generations.
For a change, Henderson Land Development Co. Ltd. (00012.HK) chairman Lee Shau-kee topped the list of local tycoons, with an estimated family wealth of US$24.1 billion.
That’s behind the US$26.6 billion amassed by another Lee family, that of Lee Kun-hee of Samsung Group, the revenue of which was over one-fifth of Korea’s gross domestic product last year.
With a focus on property and stock investment in Hong Kong and the mainland, the family of Lee Shau-kee (“Uncle Four”) has quietly become the wealthiest family in Hong Kong.
The family of his richer peer, Li Ka-shing, is not on the list because none of his grandchildren has joined his empire yet.
Uncle Four is sharing his joy at the recent birth of his latest grandchild by giving away HK$15 million to employees and friends.
Lee worked in the currency and silver exchange company started by his father, Lee Kai-po, before moving to Hong Kong in 1948 and starting a joint venture in property in 1958.
His elder son, Peter Lee Ka-kit, has been vice chairman of Henderson Land since 1993 after joining the group in 1985.
His brother, Martin Lee Ka-shing joined the board as vice chairman in 2005.
Uncle Four’s eldest grandchild, Kristine Li Keng-yan, a Stanford graduate, started working in the leasing department of the family business this summer.
The Lees beat the Kwoks, who came in fifth with an estimated net worth of US$19.5 billion.
Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. (00016.HK) was co-founded by the late Kwok Tak-seng, Lee Shau-kee and Fung King-hei in 1963.
Forbes described the Kwok family as a real-life soap opera.
In the past seven years, eldest brother Walter Kwok Ping-sheung was dethroned as chairman of SHKP and second brother Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong was jailed on corruption charges.
The developer is now run by third brother Raymond Kwok Ping-luen.
Also making the list was the Cheng family of New World Development Co. Ltd. (00017.HK) (No. 16 on the list, with US$11.1 billion), the Pao family of Wheelock & Co. (00020.HK) (No. 20, US$9 billion), the Kadoorie family of CLP Holdings Ltd. (00002.HK) (No.21, US$8.9 billion), the Law family of Bossini International Holdings Ltd. (00592.HK) (No. 38, US$4.1 billion), the Fung family of Li & Fung Ltd. (00494.HK) (No.41, US$3.9 billion) and the Lo family of Shui On Group (No.48, US$3 billion).
The list placed the family of India’s Ambani brothers at No. 3 with an estimated US$21.5 billion, followed by the Chearavanont family in Thailand (US$19.9 billion) and the Kwek/Quek family from Singapore and Malaysia (US$18.9 billion).
Taiwan’s Tsai family came in at No. 8 with US$15.1 billion.
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