Case | HBS Case Collection | November 2006 (Revised March 2014)

Li Ka-Shing and the Growth of Cheung Kong

by Nitin Nohria, Anthony J. Mayo and Mark Benson

Abstract

Events in the history of Cheung Kong's growth reveal how Li Ka-Shing applied his skills as a "first-class noticer" to complex political and socioeconomic environments. While Li's determination to succeed is legendary, so are his skills in reading and responding to the policies and norms of the People's Republic of China, British colonial Hong Kong, and the post-World War II international system. Since Li became the taipan of Hutchison Whampoa in the late 1970s, he has adjusted his ownership shares in a vast portfolio of businesses--including ports, energy, real estate, retail, telecommunications, and new media. Illustrates how Li applied his business acumen and his ability as a first-class noticer to decisions about raising or lowering his stake in these businesses, and whether to acquire new ones. After starting Cheung Kong Inc. in 1950, at age 21, Li built upon his knowledge and contacts in the plastics industry to become Hong Kong's King of Plastic Flowers. In the 1960s, amid political turmoil and labor unrest on both the mainland and in colonial Hong Kong, Li purchased rights to properties on Hong Kong island that were selling at distressed rates. Li's successes in industry and real estate continued, and he cultivated contacts and built a strong reputation that set the stage for his purchase of the hong Hutchinson Whampoa, thereby becoming the first Chinese taipan. As taipan, Li reorganized and reallocated his various financial holdings in the 1980s and 1990s as conditions were in flux due to the Westernization of China after Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao Zedong, and amid concerns about the transfer of Hong Kong from Britain back to China in 1997.

Keywords: Mergers and Acquisitions; Competency and Skills; Decision Choices and Conditions; Investment Portfolio; Business History; Leadership; Personal Development and Career; Hong Kong;

Citation:

Nohria, Nitin, Anthony J. Mayo, and Mark Benson. "Li Ka-Shing and the Growth of Cheung Kong." Harvard Business School Case 407-062, November 2006. (Revised March 2014.)