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Billionaire Watch

Meet the bottled water billionaire who dethroned Jack Ma to become the richest man in China

Zhong Shanshan is the current richest man in China and is worth $62.3 billion.



Jack Ma, the Ant and Alibaba founder is no longer the richest man in China and neither is he the second richest. He has been surpassed by two businessmen and currently sits in the third position.

Jack Ma’s position was snatched by a man who at age 30, was working as a local reporter in the Zhejiang Province of China.

Meet Zhong Shanshan, the current richest man in China 

His name is still largely unheard, unlike his counterparts. Zhong Shanshan is the current richest man in China and was recently the richest man in Asia. He is currently worth $62.3 billion, according to Bloomberg. This means that he is $10bn richer than the famous Jack Ma of Alibaba Group.

Zhong Shanshan is also in a rare class of modern-day billionaires. He belongs to the very few multi-billionaires in today’s world with no ties to the technology sector.

READ: Dangote’s net worth declines by $1.2 billion in February

Local reporter, construction worker, beverage salesman 

The story of Zhong Shanshan is your typical grass to grace story. Zhong was born into a poor family and had to drop out of school during the Cultural Revolution. He worked in construction sites and even sold prawns in the streets as a teenager.

After failing to pass the exams of a proper school, he enrolled into the Zhejiang Radio & TV University where he completed his degree and worked at the same time. At age 30, he was working as a local reporter in Zhejiang Radio and TV Station. He attributed his business drive and success to his work here as a reporter, where he interviewed over 500 self-made millionaires.

He went on to work as a beverage salesman before starting his own company.


READ: Why Warren Buffett holds only 1% of his wealth in cash

Natural water, the billion-dollar idea 

According to fortune, 1n 1996 Zhong launched a bottling water business in his hometown Hangzhou. His business sold water bottled from a nearby reservoir to local vendors.

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Zhong Shanshan’s water product came at a time when China had a serious drinking water challenge. Most of the country’s tap water was undrinkable and the Ministry of Water Resources confirmed that 80% of the country’s tap water was unsafe for drinking.

Zhong Shanshan was able to convince the Chinese people that natural water, which still contained minerals, was safe and better than traditional distilled water. His bottled water was known to have a little bit of taste from the natural minerals that were not removed from it. The Chinese people bought the idea. Zhong Shanshan also deployed brilliant marketing tactics with a product slogan that said, “Nongfu tastes a bit sweet.”

The idea struck gold!

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READ: Blue Origin Vs Space X: Bezos and Musk’s subtle battle for supremacy

Nongfu Springs’ market success 

Zhong Shanshan’s Nongfu Springs went on to become the leading bottled water product in the massive Chinese market. His company controls 28% of the Chinese bottled water market. It added energy drinks and vitamins to its catalogue and went public at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.


  • Zhong Shanshan’s Nongfu Springs was listed at a market valuation of $48bn. The number now stands at $95bn according to fortune. 
  • Zhong Shansan’s second-largest company, Beijing Wantai Biological, a vaccine maker went public in 2020 with a market capitalization of $17bn.
  • Zhong Shanshan is currently the richest man in China with a net worth of $62.3b according to Bloomberg.

READ: How Elon Musk lost $8 billion this week 

What you should know 

  • Jack Ma’s financial woes began when he openly criticized the Chinese Communist Party for its overbearing regulations on Chinese businesses. This led to the suspension of his Ant Group’s $37 billion IPO according to Reuters.
  • Zhong Shanshan is succeeded by Ma Huateng, the multi-billionaire founder of Tencent, a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company. Ma Huateng is worth $61.5bn according to
    Bloomberg index. He is the second richest man in China.
  • Zhong Shanshan is nicknamed, “The Lone Wolf” because of his very low-key lifestyle and alienation from business circles.


I Am A Business Analyst And Digital Media Enthusiast Covering Wealth And Business Leaders. Follow Me On Twitter

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Billionaire Watch

Meet the only man on top 5 billionaire list who is not in tech

Bernard Arnault, today owns and has huge stakes in over 70 different luxury brands in the market. 



How Bernard Arnault Became The 4th Richest Man In The World Selling Luxury Brands

The internet has made many people multibillionaires. The first five richest people in the world are all tech gurus who made their money from the technology sector, except one.

The fourth richest man in the world has no known successful investment in technology but somehow maintains a staggering net worth of $177.8bn. He started this week as the third richest person but a surge in Microsoft stocks saw Bill Gates displace him to the 4th position at the time of writing this report.

Our person of interest sits atop a 70 luxury brands empire which includes big names like LVMH, Sephora, and Hermes. He has stakes in virtually all the big luxury brands that have become household names.

Meet Bernard Arnault, the luxury brand king 

Bernard Arnault started his adult life as an engineer but somewhere along the line, decided to delve into the world of luxury brands. At 22 he took over his father’s construction company where he rose to become president, succeeding his father.

His adventure into the world of luxury brands officially kicked off in the year 1984, with the help of Antoine Bernheim, a senior partner of financier Lazard Frères et Cie. Bernard acquired a dying textile company that owned a host of brand labels including the now-famous Christian Dior.

He surged on from there to buy and invest in virtually all the top luxury brands in the market.

According to Forbes Bernard Arnault, today owns and has huge stakes in over 70 different luxury brands in the market.

Key Strategy: Decentralization

Bernard Arnault while speaking to Harvard Business Magazine revealed what he believes is the key to his successful luxury brand empire – decentralization. 


Bernard Arnault revealed to the Harvard Business Magazine that despite his company LVMH owning over 70 global brands and employing over 54,000 employees. The headquarters of the global company in Paris is made up of just 250 people.

A key secret of LVMH’s success is the decision to let each of its various brands run as a company of its own without much interference. Every brand runs like a different company and is headed by its own different creative director.

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He strongly believes in the notion of creativity thriving in space and he explained to HBR that acting like a typical boss around creative people stifles their creativity.

In his words, “ I don’t have alarm bells when it comes to creativity. If you think and act like a typical manager around creative people — with rules, policies, data on customer preferences, and so forth — you will quickly kill their talent. Our whole business is based on giving our artists and designers complete freedom to invent without limits.

Our philosophy is quite simple, really. If you look over a creative person’s shoulder, he will stop doing great work. Wouldn’t you, if some manager were watching your every move, clutching a calculator in his hand? So that is why LVMH is, as a company, so decentralized. Each brand very much runs itself, headed by its own artistic director. Central headquarters in Paris is very small, especially for a company with 54,000 employees and 1,300 stores around the world. There are only 250 of us, and I assure you, we do not lurk around every corner, questioning every creative decision.”  

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Brands and numbers 

The LVMH empire owns and has stakes in the following big-name brands: Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Guerlain, Moët & Chandon, Hennessy, Sephora, Berluti, Chaumet, Krug, Bulgari, Fendi, Céline, Emilio Pucci, Kenzo, Loewe, Loro Piana, Rimowa, Fred, Hublot, Zenith, TAG Heuer, etc.

According to Forbes, Bernard Arnault’s net worth is valued at $178.7b. He added a whopping $95bn to his net worth over the course of last year.

This massive surge was spearheaded by a 107% increase in LVMH share prices since March 18 last year.

According to Forbes, in the first quarter of 2021, LVMH recorded $16.7bn in sales revenue with analysts expecting the number to go up.

Bernard Arnault owns a 47% stake in LVMH the parent company which owns in whole and parts over 70 global luxury brands. This is his primary source of income and net worth.

What to know 

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  • The luxury industry is divided into 5 major sectors: Fashion and Leather Goods, Perfumes and Cosmetics, Wines and Spirits, Watches and Jewellery and Selective Retailing.
  • The LVMH house owns stakes in the biggest brands in the world across all 5 sectors.
  • Bernard Arnault has successfully integrated his children into the family empire with each manning a select niche in the LVMH house.
  • Bernard Arnault, speaking to Forbes, revealed that he sees himself as a custodian of the French heritage and culture.

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Billionaire Watch

Bernie Madoff, mastermind of the historic $65bn investment fraud dies at 82

Bernie Madoff passed away today at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.



The man behind what has been described by many as the biggest fraud attempt in US history has passed away in government custody.

Bernie Madoff was the architect of the biggest Ponzi scheme attempt in the United States. He was a famous Wall Street fellow who at a certain time was the Chairman of Nasdaq and CEO/Founder of the Wall Street firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

Bernie Madoff defrauded about 37,000 people in 136 countries over 4 decades according to US investigators. Included in his victim list are prominent Americans like movie director Stephen Spielberg and former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

READ: Anti-virus creator, John David McAfee charged for U.S tax evasion

Bernie Madoff and the US Govt

Bernie Madoff was arrested on December 11, 2008, following tip-offs. He pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes and admitted to operating the largest private Ponzi scheme in history. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison with restitution of $170bn.


Bernie Madoff passed away today at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. His death was confirmed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Madoff died apparently from natural causes, the AP reported, citing an unidentified person familiar with the matter. He would have turned 83 on April 29.

What you should know 

  • Restitution is a payment made to compensate a victim for financial losses related to a crime.
  • Bernie Madoff’s family was badly affected by his fraud case. His older son Mark committed suicide according to CNBC.
  • JP Morgan Chase, the primary bank of Bernie Madoff was forced to pay $2.6bn to the US government in settlements.

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