China's richest man started off hungry

China's richest man started off hungry

CHINA - Mr Wang Jianlin - property mogul, movie magnate and now China's richest man - was once just a very hungry boy.

Growing up during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, he was always thinking of ways to get extra servings of rice in the communal canteens. One of these was to start with a bowl filled with less rice, which he would gobble down so that he could rejoin the queue for a second - and full - bowl.

These days, the 58-year-old chairman of property developer Dalian Wanda group wants for nothing. But he never forgot those hungry years, which he believes were a key factor, as are the street smarts he picked up, in his success.

"The hardship then was unimaginable," he told the Financial Times in an interview last year. "That experience helped shape my character, taught me never to give up and never bow your head to hardship."

On Sept 8, Forbes magazine named Mr Wang the richest man in China and estimated his personal wealth to be US$14 billion (S$17.8 billion). The yearly Hurun list of China's richest individuals released three days later said he was worth US$22 billion.

Both figures put him ahead of last year's richest man, Mr Zong Qinghou, founder of Hangzhou Wahaha Group, the country's No. 3 beverage maker.

Mr Wang is already a household name in China, helped by his "Wanda Plaza" shopping malls popping up in all the major cities. But the billionaire has also been making a name for himself overseas with his high-profile acquisitions.

Last year, he paid US$2.6 billion for AMC Entertainment, the second-largest cinema chain in the United States. This year, he forked out US$1.6 billion for a British firm behind the luxurious Sunseeker yachts featured in James Bond movies.

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