Date
19 November 2018
Louis Cha Leung-yung, better known by his pen name Jin Yong, died on Tuesday at the age of 94. Cha was not only a world-famous novelist but also a successful newspaper owner. Photo: Reuters
Louis Cha Leung-yung, better known by his pen name Jin Yong, died on Tuesday at the age of 94. Cha was not only a world-famous novelist but also a successful newspaper owner. Photo: Reuters

The economics of martial arts novelist Louis Cha

Louis Cha Leung-yung, the beloved master of kung fu novels, has gone to the great beyond, but he continues to live in the hearts of his loyal readers.

The world-famous fiction writer, better known by his pen name Jin Yong, wrote more than 8.5 million words in a series of 14 novels about the lives, romances and other adventures of kung fu masters in ancient China, starting from The Book and the Sword in 1955 to The Deer and the Cauldron in 1972.

His novels have been the wellspring of countless movies and television dramas over the last 40 odd years, and that explains why his works remain popular among old and young readers alike. It is said that he used to earn eight-digit-figure royalties from his body of works every year.

Cha was also an awfully successful newspaper owner. In 1959, Cha and his classmate Sham Po Sun put together HK$100,000 to set up Ming Pao Daily.

The paper was listed in 1991 with a market capitalization of HK$870 million, of which some HK$600 million was goodwill, indicating how much investors valued the brand.

So while writing best-selling novels, he was also running Ming Pao, and both activities gave him handsome returns.

Cha later sold a 60 percent stake in the newspaper to young entrepreneur Yu Pun-hoi. And including his last disposal in 2017, Cha was able to cash out of his shares in Ming Pao for HK$1 billion.

Cha was arguably the highest-paid Chinese writer, comparable to British writer J.K. Rowling who also earned millions from her Harry Potter series. While commercially successful, Cha also gained enormous respect for the caliber of his works. In fact, fans compare the scope of his novels’ influence to that of Shakespeare.

If there was an ebb in his career as a journalist and entrepreneur, it’s probably his attempt to set up a financial paper in the early ’90s by acquiring a newspaper called Financial Daily. It was a challenge to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, founded in 1973 by Lam Hang-chi, then the business editor of Ming Pao.

Cha’s venture didn’t fare well, but he was right in thinking that financial journalism would play an increasingly important role in Hong Kong as the city rose to become a global financial center.

So Cha, who once admitted that he knew nothing about kung fu despite writing some of the best novels about it, did know something about investment and finance.

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe