Jack Ma dethroned as China's richest, with 'Lone Wolf' Zhong Shanshan moving up

Nongfu Spring founder Zhong Shanshan's (right) net worth reached US$58.7 billion on Sept 23, US$2 billion more than Jack Ma's. PHOTO: REUTERS, NONGFUSPRING.COM

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - A bottled-water and vaccine tycoon has become China's wealthiest person, in a day also marked by massive losses among the world's tech elite.

Mr Zhong Shanshan's net worth reached US$58.7 billion (S$80.7 billion) on Wednesday (Sept 23), US$2 billion more than Mr Jack Ma's, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr Zhong is now Asia's second-richest person, behind India's Mukesh Ambani, and is the 17th wealthiest person overall, ahead of Mr Charles Koch and Mr Phil Knight.

Nicknamed "Lone Wolf" for his eschewing of politics and clubby business groups, Mr Zhong's fortune has jumped almost US$52 billion in 2020, more than anyone else in the world except Amazon.com Inc's Jeff Bezos and Tesla Inc's Elon Musk.

Both suffered heavy declines on Wednesday as tech stocks stumbled and Tesla plunged after its "Battery Day" event fell short of expectations.

Mr Musk's fortune dropped by almost US$10 billion.

The initial public offering of bottled-water company Nongfu Spring Co - which turned out to be Hong Kong's most popular among retail investors - propelled Mr Zhong to China's top three richest earlier this month.

That came after the April listing of vaccine-maker Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co pushed his net worth to US$20 billion by early August.

Mr Zhong now leads a wealth ranking in China that is typically dominated by people who made their fortunes from tech companies.

While Mr Zhong has surpassed Mr Ma as China's wealthiest, the tech tycoon might soon regain the top spot, which he's held for most of the past six years after Alibaba went public. The US Ant Group's IPO next month is poised to boost his fortune, with his stake valued at US$28 billion if the company achieves the US$250 billion valuation people familiar with the matter have said it's targeting.

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