Asia’s 20 Richest Families Control $495 Billion

Adrian Cheng was in his element, among the rich and the glamorous, with Hong Kong's neon skyline in the background.

Cheng is the heir to one of the city's great fortunes, and he was all smiles as he presided over a star- studded celebration at his most lavish creation. The exhibit with Carine Roitfeld was dedicated to the preservation of avoir faire.

The Chengs, who are worth about $23 billion, are one of the richest families in Asia. Since a high less than three years ago, the New World Development Co. shares have tanked more than 40%.

When anti-government protests shut malls in the middle of the year, and the Covid-19 epidemic kept tourists away, the downturn began. About 10% of the Hong Kong distribution network was shut down by The Chengs in the 18 months through September.

Pressure is building on Hong Kong's developers to come up with cheaper housing in the world's least affordable market. Concerns have grown that China's efforts to reach common prosperity could spread to the city's richest dynasties.

Cheng championed some of the most ambitious property projects in the former British colony, including a sports complex that will have a 50,000-seat stadium and 10,000-seat arena at the site of Hong Kong's old airport.

In a city where property has dominated economic life and the collective psyche for decades, the 42-year-old has been expanding intocryptocurrencies,biotech and e-commerce, and pledged New World would ditch coal for its rental properties in the Greater Bay Area by 2026.

Some of Asia's other hyper-rich families have the same story. The dynasties know they need to quickly transition to green tech and e- commerce. They're eager to embrace the latest hot investments, whether it's the metaverse or biotech, which could turn into costly mistakes.

Kevin Au is the director for the Centre for Family Business at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The region's 20 richest families have gotten $33 billion richer since the end of 2020 despite the swine flu. Their combined wealth is more than the gross domestic product of Hong Kong or Singapore.

The Ambanis have led the ranking for the third year in a row and are shifting Reliance Industries towards tech and e- commerce. The first Chinese family to make an appearance on the list is the owners of China Hongqiao Group.

The relative strength of India's economy was underscored by the debut of the Birla and Bajaj dynasties.

Others fell behind. The Central Group, the Hos of casino giant SJM, and the Ngs of Singapore property developer are no longer among the 20 richest clans in Asia.

Cheng was involved in a $359 million funding round for Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based gaming and NFT firm. Matrixport, SenseTime Group Inc., and Lalamove are just a few of the companies that the firm has invested in.

Cheng launched his own blank-check company last year. A New World representative said that the merger with Prenetics is on track to be completed by March.

The goal of the new ventures is clear. Adrian Cheng said in April that he wanted non-property services to generate 30% of New World's income in five to seven years.

In a speech this month, he asked what he wanted his legacy to be, he said "Do you want to be known for simply meeting the status quo or do you want to be remembered for true leadership and making significant?"

Ambani portrait

In 1957, the father of Mukesh and Anil started building a business. The widow brokered a settlement between her sons over control of the family fortune after her husband's death. The Mumbai-based conglomerate, which owns the world's largest oil-refining complex and has been expanding into tech and retail, has a new leader. The world's most expensive private residence is where he lives.

Did you know Mukesh Ambani said he believes in blockchain technology and that India will soon have one of the most advanced digital infrastructures. 1957: Dhirubhai Ambani returns to India from Yemen and starts the precursor to Reliance Industries. 2002: Elder son Mukesh takes over the chairmanship. 2014: Siblings Isha and Akash join the boards of the retail and mobile carrier units. Hartono portrait

Oei Gwan bought a cigarette brand in 1950 and renamed it Djarum. After Oei died in 1963, his sons Michael and Budi diversified by investing in Bank Central Asia, which became one of the largest cigarette makers in Indonesia. Most of the family's fortune is made up of that stake.

Did you know Bank Central Asia was said to be in talks with Binance and an Indonesian telecom operator to set up a cryptocurrency trading exchange. 1950: Oei Wie Gwan buys the cigarette brand that will become Djarum. 1963: Oei dies, leaving the company to his two sons. 2016: Armand Wahyudi Hartono becomes vice president director of Bank Central Asia. Mistry portrait

The Mistry family business was started in India in 1865 by the grandfather of Pallonji Mistry. Engineering and construction are included in the business areas of Shapoorji Pallonji Group. The family has shares in the main holding company of the group. A judge ruled against the proposal to swap Mistry's stake in the group for shares in the conglomerate.

Did you know The Mistry family belongs to the Parsi Zoroastrian community, which fled persecution in Persia centuries ago before finding refuge in western India. 1865: The Mistry family starts its business. 1921: Founder Pallonji passes away and Shapoorji Pallonji takes over. 1947: Pallonji Mistry joins the construction business at age 18. 2012: Shapoor Mistry, the son of Pallonji, becomes chairman of the group. 2019: Shapoor’s children Pallon and Tanya join the board of the group holding company. Kwok portrait

Sun Hung Kai Properties was listed by Kwok Tak-seng. The company has become one of Hong Kong's largest real estate developers and the basis of the Kwok family fortune. His sons assumed control after he died.

Did you know Adam Kwok criticized Hong Kong’s land policies and suggested an overhaul to help solve the city’s housing problems. 1972: Kwok Tak-seng, a grocery wholesaler, incorporates Sun Hung Kai. 2008: Walter Kwok is ousted as chairman after a feud with his brothers. 2018: Geoffrey Kwok is appointed non-executive director of Sun Hung Kai. Chearavanont portrait

After fleeing his typhoon-hit village in southern China, Chia Ek Chor started a new life in Thailand selling vegetable seeds with his brother. The son of Chia is the senior chairman of the Charoen Pokphand Group.

Did you know Ascend Money, backed by CP Group, became Thailand’s first fintech unicorn with a valuation of $1.5 billion in September. 1921: Chia Ek Chor and his brother set up a seed shop in Bangkok. 1939: Dhanin Chearavanont is born, the youngest of four brothers. 2017: Two of Dhanin’s sons become CEO and chairman of the group. 2021: Amity, a tech startup run by Dhanin’s grandson, surpasses 10 million active users. Tsai portrait

Cathay Life Insurance was founded by the Tsai brothers. The family decided in 1979 to split the business into two, with Tsai Wan-lin and Tsai Wan-tsai taking control. Fubon Insurance was formerly known as Cathay Insurance. The family controls two large financial-holding companies in Taiwan and has diversified into sectors.

Did you know Fubon Financial was said to be in advanced talks to buy Citigroup’s consumer business in mainland China. 1962: The Tsai brothers found Cathay Life Insurance. 2001: Tsai Hong-tu becomes board chairman of Cathay Financial. 2019: Chris Tsai is appointed to Taiwan Mobile’s board of directors. Cheng portrait

The Cheng family fortune began with a Hong Kong-based jeweler. The year it was founded is 1929. New World Development is one of the biggest real estate and infrastructure companies in the city.

Did you know New World Development outlined plans to sell homes at half of their market price to help address Hong Kong’s housing crisis. 1929: Chow Chi-yuen establishes Chow Tai Fook. 1970: Son-in-law Cheng Yu-tung sets up New World Development. 2011: Henry Cheng is appointed chairman and executive director of Chow Tai Fook. 2017: Adrian Cheng is reappointed as executive vice chairman and named general manager of New World Development. Pao/Woo portrait

The shipping business started with HK$20,000 brought to Hong Kong from Shanghai more than a decade ago. The world's largest independently owned bulk-shipping fleet at that time was accumulated by the company. Using proceeds from ship sales, Pao diversified into real estate. His businesses were divided between his four daughters and their families. Wheelock, a Hong Kong property developer, was taken private in 2020.

Did you know Douglas Woo was among those who helped clear bricks from the street when anti-government protests swept through Hong Kong in 2019. 1955: Pao Yue-kong buys his first vessel. 1986: Pao retires and son-in-law Helmut Sohmen becomes chairman of World-Wide Shipping. 2014: Douglas Woo, Pao’s grandson, becomes chairman of Wheelock. Lee portrait

Lee Kum Sheung was the inventor of oyster sauce. After the original oyster sauce factory in Guangdong province burned down in 1902, the business was rebuilt in Macau and then relocated to Hong Kong. The company was consolidated by third-generation member Lee Man Tat. LKK Health Products, a manufacturer and seller of herbal remedies, was started in 1992 by the family. The Walkie Talkie tower is one of the real estate assets owned by the family. Charlie is now chairman after his father Lee Man Tat died at the age of 91.

Did you know Astronauts used Lee Kum Kee’s Sriracha Mayo on NASA’s International Space Station. 1888: Lee Kum Sheung invents oyster sauce and establishes Lee Kum Kee. 1920: Second-generation member Lee Shiu Nan takes over the business. 1972: Lee Man Tat, known as the “King of Oyster Sauce,” becomes chairman of Lee Kum Kee. 1985: Lee Man Tat’s son Charlie joins the business. 2014: The Lee Kum Kee Family Council, established in 2002, appoints three members of the fifth generation to the board. Yoovidhya portrait

T.C. Pharmaceutical was established by Chaleo Yoovidhya. He invented an energy drink called Krating Daeng, Thai for red bull, in 1975, and later diversified into consumer goods. The success of Red Bull has helped the fortunes of the families. Saravoot became the chief executive officer of the group when his father died.

Did you know TCP Group delivered medical equipment to Thai hospitals to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. 1956: Chaleo Yoovidhya founds T.C. Pharmaceutical. 2018: CEO Saravoot Yoovidhya oversees the opening of TCP Group’s first international branch, in Vietnam. Kwek/Quek portrait

Hong Leong Co. was founded in Singapore in 1941 by three brothers. The city-state has a wide range of operations, from property development to finance. One of the country's largest conglomerates has a part of the family business that was headed by nephew Quek Leng Chan.

Did you know City Developments sold its stake in a contentious Chinese venture for $1 after a $1.4 billion write-off. 1941: Kwek Hong Png sets up Hong Leong in Singapore. 1995: Kwek Leng Beng takes over from his father as executive chairman of Hong Leong Group. 2018: Sherman Kwek becomes CDL’s group CEO. Sy portrait

Henry was born in China and moved to the Philippines when he was 12. Before opening his first shoe store, his father helped him sell rice, sardines and soap. From a small shop in downtown Manila, the business has grown into a conglomerate with interests including retail, banking and property. The group has thousands of retail stores and banking branches.

Did you know More than 6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered in SM malls. 1958: Henry Sy opens a shoe store called Shoemart in Manila. 2017: Harley Sy, the founder’s son, hands over SM Investments’ chief executive position to a non-family member. 2018: Third-generation Hans Sy Jr. takes over as president of SM Engineering Design and Development. Kadoorie portrait

The Kadoorie brothers arrived in Hong Kong to work for the Sassoons, a prominent family of the Baghdad Jewish diaspora. The brothers amassed stakes in banking, real estate and power- generation facilities. The group that owns the Peninsula Hotel chain is one of the major investments. Michael is the grandson of Elly.

Did you know CLP, which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2021, has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. 1880s: The Kadoorie family arrives in Hong Kong. 1944: Elly Kadoorie dies, leaving the business to sons Lawrence and Horace. 1997: Michael Kadoorie is appointed chairman of CLP’s board. 2018: Philip Lawrence Kadoorie, son of Michael Kadoorie, becomes non-executive director of CLP. Birla portrait

One of India's oldest family-owned businesses is the Aditya Birla Group, which has interests in metals, cement, financial services, telecom and retail. It started as a cotton-trading company in the 19th century and became one of the nation's biggest aluminum makers. Kumar Birla is the business's chairman.

Did you know Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on the grounds of Ghanshyam Das Birla’s house in New Delhi. 1857: Seth Shiv Narayan Birla begins trading cotton. 1887: His son, Baldeo Das Birla, sets up business in Calcutta. 1918: GD Birla establishes Birla Jute Mills, which eventually becomes Birla Group. 1936: Basant Kumar Birla, who by 15 was already active in Birla companies, becomes chair of Kesoram Industries. 1965: Aditya Vikram Birla joins the group to work in textiles. 1995: Kumar Birla becomes chairman at the age of 28 after his father’s death. Lee portrait

Lee Byung-chull started the company as a trading company. He got into the electronics business in 1969 when he set up his company, which is now the world's largest maker of memory chips and smartphones. His third son, Lee Kun-hee, took over the business after his father's death. He died of a heart attack in October 2020. In a scandal that led to the impeachment of the President, Jay Y. Lee spent time in jail for bribes. He was released from parole last year.

Did you know The family of the late Lee Kun-hee pledged stock worth more than $13 billion to help buy time to pay for one of the largest inheritance bills. 1938: Lee Byung-chull starts a company exporting fruits, vegetables and fish. 1987: Lee Kun-hee becomes chairman of Samsung Group. 2015: Jay Y. Lee is elected chairman of two Samsung foundations. Torii/Saji portrait

Wine and western-style liquors were sold at the first store opened by Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii. Suntory has become a billion dollar conglomerate under the leadership of Keizo Saji, who took over as president in 1961. Nobutada Saji is the grandson of the founder.

Did you know Suntory revised its environmental targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from its direct operations by 50% by 2030. 1899: Shinjiro Torii founds Torii Shoten, Suntory’s predecessor. 1961: Torii’s son, Keizo Saji, becomes the company’s second president. 2001: Nobutada Saji takes over as president of Suntory. 2016: Nobuhiro Torii becomes director of Suntory Beverage & Food. Chung portrait

The founder of the company was a farmer's son named Juyung Chung. It makes everything from cars to ships. The group broke up in 2001 after a battle for control between two of his six surviving sons. The founder's grandson, EuisunChung, took over from his father as chairman of the company.

Did you know Hyundai Motor said it would invest $7.4 billion in the U.S. by 2025 to produce electric vehicles. 1946: Juyung Chung starts a business named Hyundai. 1999: Mong-Koo Chung, the founder’s son, takes the helm of Hyundai Motor. 2020: Euisun Chung, the founder’s grandson, becomes Hyundai Motor’s chairman. Hinduja portrait

In 1914, Parmanand Hinduja traveled to Mumbai to establish his business in trade and banking. The group's headquarters remained in Tehran until 1979. After Parmanand's death in 1971, his sons Gopichand and Srichand left for London while his other two sons, Prakash and Ashok, stayed in Mumbai. Energy, automotive, finance and health care are some of the businesses of the Hinduja Group. The family has real estate in India and London. They are involved in a dispute over a letter.

Did you know Karam Hinduja was training to become a tennis pro before he suffered from a herniated disc. 1914: Parmanand Hinduja starts the family business. 1952: Srichand Hinduja joins his father in the business. 2010: Dheeraj Hinduja becomes chairman of Ashok Leyland. 2020: Karam Hinduja takes charge of what is now SP Hinduja Banque Privee. Zhang portrait

The predecessor of China Hongqiao was started in 1994. The veteran Communist Party member used the market reforms ushered in by the former leader to turn his company into a major aluminum maker in China. After his passing, his daughter took charge of the textile business while his son became chairman of the aluminum business.

Did you know China Hongqiao received 3.8 billion yuan ($600 million) from three new strategic investors in April 2021. 1994: Shandong Hongqiao is founded as a sino-foreign joint venture, with Zhang Shiping holding a marjority stake. 2011: Zhang Bo becomes the chief executive officer of China Hongqiao. Bajaj portrait

Mahatma Gandhi's fifth son, Jamnalal Bajaj, founded the Bajaj Group in the late 19th century. His son started the precursor to Bajaj Auto and went on to expand into cement and electrical appliances. The company began manufacturing its own brand of scooters after Piaggio didn't renew its license. In 2008, the son of Kamalnayan split the company into three units to increase shareholder returns and give more control to his heirs.

Did you know Rahul Bajaj holds honorary doctorates from seven universities. 1926: Jamnalal Bajaj creates the Bajaj Group. 1942: Bajaj’s son, Kamalnayan, succeeds him. 1968: Rahul becomes Bajaj Auto’s CEO at age 30. 2005: Rahul’s son Rajiv joins Bajaj Auto as a managing director.

As of January 25, the ranking of Asia's richest families was compiled. Jack Ma's fortune, as well as fortunes in the hands of a single heir, are not included.

The report was edited by Venus Feng, Andrew Heathcote, Matt Dunn, Alex Sazanov, P R Sanjai, Pierre Paulden, Cecile Vannucci, Michael Patterson, Ben Stupples, and Brian Chappatta.