Half of China's billionaires don't have a degree

Top on the list is Mr Zong Qinghou, who has a fortune of 112 billion yuan (S$23 billion).
Top on the list is Mr Zong Qinghou, who has a fortune of 112 billion yuan (S$23 billion).

But their average wealth is $2b less than that of billionaires with degrees: Research report

SHANGHAI • Half of the 2,000 Chinese billionaires with a personal wealth of at least two billion yuan (S$410 million) do not have a bachelor's degree, according to the Hurun Research Institute.

The institute released a new rich list this week that ranks the top 100 richest individuals who do not have a basic degree, reported Chinese media this week.

These 100 billionaires are sitting on an average fortune of 24.9 billion yuan each. Their average age is 58 years old, said the report published on the institute's website.

Top on the Hurun University of Life Rich List 2017 is Mr Zong Qinghou, chairman of Hangzhou-based Wahaha Group, one of China's biggest beverage producers.

According to Hurun, Mr Zong, 72, from eastern Jiangsu province, ranked No. 41 on the Hurun Global Rich List 2016 and No. 5 on the China Rich List 2016 with a fortune of 112 billion yuan.

The report said that Mr Zong started working after finishing secondary school. He carried bricks and worked as a street vendor, but eventually set up the Wahaha beverage factory in 1988. Over the past 20 years, he built up his drinks empire and is now a deputy of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.

Also on the inaugural Hurun University of Life Rich List 2017 is tech entrepreneur and LeEco chairman Jia Yueting, who was born in 1973 in Shanxi province. He worked in an online company after graduating from a vocational school, reported Global Times newspaper.

Another prominent name on the list is Soho China chairman and property tycoon Pan Shiyi, who graduated from a vocational school.

"These people might not succeed in accordance with current social standards; however, they made it and created great enterprises, which taught me that a hero may rise from nowhere," said Mr Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of the institute.

The average wealth of the top 100 entrepreneurs without a degree is 24.9 billion yuan, 9.6 billion yuan (S$2 billion) less than those who have degrees.

The average age of those on the Hurun University of Life Rich List 2017 is six years older than those who have degrees.

Eight of the people on the Hurun list are above 70.

"The heroic entrepreneurs are older and deeply affected by the Cultural Revolution (1966-76)," Mr Hoogewerf was quoted as saying by the Global Times.

Most of those who did not have further education are in the manufacturing sector, with a few in the financial or IT industries.

Mr Hoogewerf said the first post-Cultural Revolution generation of billionaires values integrity, hard work and pragmatism, while the younger generations focus more on innovation and talent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Half of China's billionaires don't have a degree'. Print Edition | Subscribe