A tycoon known as China’s Warren Buffett has gone missing, prompting speculation that he has been ensnared by president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign and causing shares in the Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of his company to be suspended.
Fosun Group, China’s largest private-sector conglomerate, has been unable to reach its chairman Guo Guangchang since noon on Thursday, according to the local business magazine Caixin, which cited anonymous sources.
“We are still in shock,” one source at Fosun was quoted as saying by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. “Guo is very cautious in his handling of the government. As he often tells us, stay close to politics, but stay away from politicians.”
It remains unclear whether Guo, 48, has disappeared because he himself has been detained on corruption charges or is merely helping authorities with their inquiries into others.
Fosun Group is due to hold its annual meeting on Monday, where Guo usually makes a speech, Chinese news portal Sohu said. He was being questioned in connection with an investigation into the former Shanghai deputy mayor and director of the Shanghai free trade zone, Ai Baojun, it added.
In social media posts on Thursday cited by Caixin, witnesses claimed to have seen police taking Guo away at a Shanghai airport after he flew into the city from Hong Kong. Guo’s account on Weibo, China’s Twitter, had been scrubbed of all posts by Friday morning.
Guo is China’s 17th richest person with a net worth of $5.6bn (£3.7bn), according to Bloomberg News. He is a member of the Chinese people’s political consultative conference, a debating chamber that is part of the Communist party-controlled governmental structure.
Reports of Guo’s disappearance comes amid a corruption crackdown that has spread through the nation’s finance industry in the wake of this year’s stock market debacle.
China’s financial watchdog, the securities regulatory commission, has stepped up investigations into local brokerage firms in recent weeks.
In August, the Fosun Group chairman was put under the spotlight when he was named in a corruption court case in Shanghai. According to state media reports, Guo was suspected of granting favours to an executive of a Chinese state-owned company in exchange for unspecified benefits.
On Sunday, China’s largest brokerage, Citic Securities, said it had been unable to contact two of its top executives.
Guo’s disappearance, if confirmed, would make him the most high-profile business figure to become caught up in the country’s anti-graft campaign.
At 48, Guo is one of China’s most powerful tycoons. This year’s Hurun rich list named him as the country’s 17th richest person with an estimated wealth of 50bn yuan ($7.8bn). Guo is the biggest shareholder in Fosun, which he founded with three classmates from Shanghai’s Fudan University.
Fosun has interests in industries as varied as pharmaceuticals, property, mining and even entertainment. The company has become a major international player, snapping up high-profile assets including Club Med, Cirque du Soleil and the landmark One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York.
Source: Guardian, Bloomberg, The Economist