Business / Companies

Drinks tycoon in surprise move

By Wang Zhuoqiong in Hangzhou (China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-10 09:38

Zong Qinghou wants to emulate the success of London's Harrods store

There must have been a risk of red faces in Italy's fashion capital, Milan.

Although China's beverage tycoon and billionaire Zong Qinghou leads a mostly austere lifestyle and, until recently, showed little interest in fashion, many would have hoped when he arrived there on a buying spree he would get the red carpet treatment.

As the world's 23rd richest man, he was about to embark on a multi-million dollar new venture.

However, delighted local officials first directed him to some smaller-sized producers. Unsatisfied, Zong demanded to meet larger-scale companies.

Drinks tycoon in surprise move

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The Italian trade commission arranged more than 600 meetings and gave special access to exclusive exhibitions for the Chinese delegation in cities such as Milan and Florence, said Antonino Laspina, the Italian Trade Commissioner in Beijing, coordinator of the ICE offices in China and attache for trade promotion at the Italian Embassy in Beijing.

"It is not easy to understand what kind of products are suitable for the Chinese market when you approach such big projects," he said.

Small wonder the juice giant wants to raise his profile. His soft drinks empire - Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co - remains based in a gray, six-story building adjacent to the city's railway station despite the company's huge growth and the dramatic rise in his own income in just 25 years.

Every morning, Zong has the same breakfast from the staff canteen. He had a reputation for going to work in simple clothes and wears a pair of traditional Chinese cotton shoes. The commander-in-chief of 170 subsidiaries and boss of some 30,000 staff does not need to prove he is rich.

Zong topped the Hurun Rich List in 2012 with a personal fortune of $12.6 billion for the second time. But at the age of 67 Zong has suddenly taken an interest in fashion and luxury. He started to wear European luxury fashion brands and even endured a two-hour photo shoot for a fashion magazine.

Many of his employees have not seen him so passionate since he purchased production lines for a new beverage-manufacturing base.


More about Zong Qinghou

Zong Qinghou tops Hurun China Rich List

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5 Chinese on Hurun Global Rich List

Rich list grows but getting up there on top is harder

China's richest see their wealth double

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