By Gerry Shih
BEIJING (StartName) – Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd <BABA.N>, has become China’s richest man with a fortune estimated at $25 billion, underscoring the ascension of tech tycoons over real estate peers in the world’s second biggest economy.
Ma knocked Wang Jianlin, head of the Wanda property group, into second place with $24.2 billion, according to this year’s list of China’s super-rich published by Hurun Reports Inc.
Tech billionaires accounted for half of the top 10 names and included Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> founder Pony Ma in fifth place with a $18.1 billion fortune and Baidu Inc <BIDU.O> CEO Robin Li in sixth position with $17.5 billion.
Making the top 10 for the first time were cellphone company Xiaomi Inc [XTC.UL] co-founder Lei Jun and e-commerce entrepreneur Liu Qiangdong who led JD.com <JD.O> to a New York listing this year – in ninth and tenth position respectively.
While six real estate developers occupied the top 10 places in 2013, just two made the cut this year, a reflection of a Chinese housing market that has stalled for several quarters.
Although the vast majority of the roughly 1,100 people tracked by Hurun saw their wealth grow, it’s tense times for the Chinese elite as President Xi Jinping’s administration continues its far-reaching corruption crackdown in both the public and private sectors.
According to Hurun, five members of its rich list are under investigation, two have been imprisoned, two are awaiting sentencing, one has been sentenced to death, while one – the flamboyant Sichuan businessman Li Yan – has disappeared altogether.
Hurun said it counted a record 354 U.S. dollar billionaires in mainland China, up 13 percent from last year and which compares with just 65 billionaires in 2012.
“The entrepreneurial spirit that has caught China seems not to be abating, with eight self-made individuals born in the eighties making the list,” said British accountant Rupert Hoogewerf, Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher.
Hurun said its rankings were accurate as of mid-August. It was not immediately clear what valuation it used for Alibaba. A record-setting IPO this month catapulted Alibaba’s valuation to well over $200 billion. Ma owns 7.8 percent of Alibaba and also made gains of some $850 million by selling shares in the offering.
Despite the size of Alibaba’s IPO, only one other Alibaba shareholder, Simon Xie, made Hurun’s list, coming in at No. 177. Xie is an Alibaba vice president and co-founder who holds significant shares in the company alongside Ma.
(Reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)