Greene King, Britain’s biggest pub owner, has agreed to sell its entire business to CKA aka Hutchinson Whampoa , a real estate group run by Hong Kong’s richest family and the owner of a huge business enterprise including the Port of Felixstowe, a mobile phone network and Superdrug .
While Li Ka-shing is no longer the richest man in Asia, the 91-year-old still ranks as 28th richest person in the world and has a a current estimated net worth of £27.8 billion. Based in Hong Kong, he has been quite vocal in recent months in siding with the rebels against the increasing might of China as it seeks to assimilate Honk Kong into its own portfolio.
Bury St Edmunds based Greene King, founded in 1799 by 19 year-old Benjamin Greene, owns roughly 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK including Hungry Horse, Chef and Brewer and Loch Fyne brands, and employs more than 38,000 staff. Shares in the pub owner and brewer surged after it announced the £2.7bn deal on Monday afternoon.
CKA, is chaired by Li Ka-shing’s son Victor Li, who has agreed the acquisition through newly formed subsidiary CK Bidco, based in the Cayman Islands.
Victor Li was kidnapped in 1996 – with his father paying HK$1 billion for his release. He blamed himself for not being more vigilant. The kidnapper was caught on the Chinese mainland and later executed for the crime.
Greene King’s deal comes just seven months after Fuller’s, a fellow UK pub group, sold its brewing business to Japanese firm Asahi. With our nuclear power stations being built by the French, our trains owned by Belgium and most of London’s new real estate owned by the Russians and the Chinese – perhaps we could interest Donald Trump in buying what’s left?
Meanwhile – self made business man Li shows no sign of slowing down.
Often called “Superman” and Asia’s answer to Warren Buffet by the media, Li has an incredible and inspiring life story. He went from dropping out of school as a child to support his family to becoming the first person of Chinese origin to buy one of the British-built Hong Kong companies that dominated the city since its colonial days.
Li Ka-shing was saddled with financial responsibility from a young age. After his family fled to Hong Kong from southern China during WWII, his father died of tuberculosis so he had to leave school before the age of 16 to work in a plastics factory.
For almost four years during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, he sent 90% of his pay to his mother. Li worked hard from a young age, often working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, a pace that he says he continues to keep up even into his 90’s.
Though Li dropped out of school at a young age and never received a university degree, he has always been a voracious reader and attributes much of his success to his ability to learn independently. For instance, he completed Cheung Kong’s accounting books in the company’s first year himself with no accounting experience — he simply taught himself from textbooks. And he seems to have instilled that same business sense and self determination into his son.
With a portfolio including a number of ports across the world and a diverse range of businesses – this is maybe someone our young entrepreneurs should look to for inspiration. Otherwise one day we may wake up and find that the UK is truly owned lock stock and barrel by others.