Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing on Thursday brought down the curtain on a storied career, saying he had done “the best I can”.
The 89-year old, known affectionately in the financial hub as Superman for his business acumen, stepped down as chairman of his flagship company CK Hutchison and handed the reins to his eldest son Victor after an upbeat annual general meeting.
A wartime refugee who came to Hong Kong from mainland China, Li got his start in 1950 making plastic flowers and over the years built a sprawling conglomerate that has become part of the fabric of Hong Kong life, ranging from internet services to supermarket chains.
The tycoon greeted a large crowd of reporters with open arms and big smiles on Thursday, saying: “One person’s ability cannot bring about change. It requires everyone to work together and share a dream goal.”
Asked about his proudest achievement he said: “I’ve done the best I can.”
He told reporters: “I will miss you all… you have always been my friends.”
Li announced his retirement in mid-March when his companies released their full-year results, finally ending mounting speculation about his plans.
A sweeping revamp of his vast empire in 2015 was seen as a sign that he was paving the way for Victor to take over.
After leaving the firm Li said he plans to focus on his charity, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, to which he has already pledged one-third of his assets. The foundation funds education and health initiatives around the world.
Li has an estimated fortune of over $33.3 billion, according to Bloomberg and Forbes.
Local media followed the tycoon closely during the day, including setting up a livestream outside his mansion and running footage of his early morning exercise routine.
“I’ll keep working, just doing different things,” a smiling Li said to reporters huddled around his car as he set off for the day.
Li told local television network i-Cable over the phone before his last meetings with shareholders as chairman that he was confident about his son taking over, having worked with him for decades.
Analysts said while the retirement of one of Hong Kong’s most famous characters is significant, it would not impact the performance of his companies.
“The end of the era is just something symbolic… I don’t see any changes in terms of the management style,” said Dickie Wong of Kingston Securities Limited, adding the “energetic and healthy” mogul would continue to provide guidance.
CK Hutchison controls diverse assets in more than 50 countries, and has recently counted Europe as a significant income source.
Its Cheung Kong Infrastructure company operates development, investment and infrastructure businesses in mainland China, Britain, Canada and other countries.