Business / Economy

University's deal spree exposes Zhao as chip billionaire

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-03-25 07:45

University's deal spree exposes Zhao as chip billionaire

Zhao Weiguo, chairman of Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.[Photo/]

Zhao Weiguo tapped connections at his alma mater Tsinghua University, whose alumni include China's two most recent presidents, to make acquisitions and amass a $2 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd, a unit of the university's holding company of which Zhao is chairman, signed a $1.45 billion deal with Intel Corp last year and was shortlisted to buy more than $2.5 billion of Hewlett-Packard Co assets, people familiar with the matter have said.

If Unigroup is successful, the deal would be its third major acquisition in the past two years. The Beijing-based company bought US-listed Spreadtrum Communications Inc for $1.5 billion in 2013 and RDA Microelectronics Inc last year for $893 million, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

In September, Intel agreed to spend as much as 9 billion yuan ($1.45 billion) on a stake in a Unigroup subsidiary holding stakes in the two chip designers. The transaction values the unit, which is wholly-owned by Unigroup, at about $7.3 billion.

Three calls and an email sent to Unigroup's investors relations department went unanswered.

Tsinghua University founded what later became Unigroup in 1988, according to the company's website. In a 2010 privatization, Beijing Jiankun Group, controlled by Zhao, became Unigroup's second-biggest shareholder after the university.

Zhao controls 70 percent of Beijing Jiankun, which will own about 39 percent of the Unigroup subsidiary holding the two chip designers after Intel's investment, according to company filings obtained by Bloomberg News. That gives Zhao a 27 percent interest in the Unigroup unit valued at about $2 billion.

Li Yi and Li Luyuan, the other two shareholders of Beijing Jiankun with a 15 percent stake each, are both worth about $424 million.

Zhao has bachelor's and master's degrees in electronic engineering from Tsinghua University, according to a biography posted on the website of Tsinghua Entrepreneur & Executive Club, an alumni organization. Beijing Jiankun, which he founded in the early 2000s, invests in technology, natural resources and real estate.

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