Here's Where the Billionaire Founders of Alibaba and Tencent Bought Homes in Hong Kong
ITâS A TASK that vexes every self-respecting billionaire from Chinaâs mainland: finding a suitable mansion in Hong Kong. The former British colony is a small place, and the stock of billionaire-worthy residences hasnât kept pace with the exploding ranks of mega-rich mainland buyers. The two Mas, Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma and Tencent CEO Pony Ma, have risen to the challenge in different ways.
Jackâs approach to the problem has been straightforward. In 2007, three weeks after Alibabaâs $25 billion IPO, he shelled out $38 million for the five-bedroom, 7,000-square foot penthouse of a luxury development in Hong Kongâs Mid-Levels district. The purchase worked out about $5,400 per square foot, a record for Asia at the time.
But that appears to have been Jackâs Hong Kong starter home. In 2015 Hong Kongâs South China Morning Post identified Jack as the buyer of 22 Barker Road, a prime property atop Victoria Peak, the iconic neighborhood that has been home to Hong Kongâs elite since the colonial era. The Post said Jack had purchased a 9,900-square foot, four-story house for a jaw-dropping $193 million, or about $19,500 per square foot, which at the time made the structure Hong Kongâs most expensive residence per square foot.
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Although 22 Barker Road is widely assumed in Hong Kong to the house that Jack bought, Jack himself has declined comment on the Postâs report that he was the buyer. (A few months later Alibaba Group bought the Post for $266 million.). The house was a 70-year-old concrete fortress that once served as residence of the Belgian consul general: It sold nearly nine times what the previous owner, former chief executive of the Hong Kong stock exchange Francis Yuen, paid for it in 2000.
The property comes with a 20,000-square foot private garden and killer view of Victoria Harbor. As of mid-June, thatâs about all it came with: Workers had razed the house to the foundations, presumably as a prelude to a rebuilding project.
Pony paid $57 million in 2014 for a house in Repulse Bay on the islandâs south side. But his trophy purchase is in Shek O, Hong Kongâs rugged southeastern peninsula, in a neighborhood that is even more exclusive than the Peak. Though only a 40-minute drive from the skyscrapers of Central, Shek O feels worlds away. Most of the peninsula is a prote cted country park covered in dense jungle. The district is famed for its beaches, craggy rock cliffs, and the spectacular ocean vistas from its undulating âDragonâs Backâ hiking trail.
That trail affords the best view of Ponyâs property, 13 Big Wave Bay Road, one of about 20 grand mansions that surround a golf course at the peninsulaâs southern tip. The golf course is part of the Shek O Country Club, founded by the great British trading houses and still considered Hong Kongâs most exclusive private club. The mansions belong to some of Hong Kongâs most powerful business leaders.
According to 2004 article in the South China Morning Post âwealth is not the sole requirementâ for occupying a Shek O mansion. New residents must wi n the blessing of the board of Shek O Development, the secretive private company that owns the country club and, since the 1930s, has leased the land on which the luxury properties are built. Houses on land controlled by Shek O Development are required to be of âEuropean type,â and cannot be sold, renovated or even painted a different color without the entityâs permission.
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Pony purchased the Shek O property from a Hong Kong shipping tycoon in 2009. He paid $61 million, and won approval to redevelop and more than double the size of the 8,000â"square foot house. Analysts estimate that when the renovation is complete, his property will have quadrupled in value.
The only drawback: The development companyâs rules could make it hard to sell. Ponyâs property may be bigger and worth more on paper than Jackâs, notes Bruce Li, associate director at real-estate and relocation company Asia Pacific Properties, but âif a seller canât get approval from the Shek O shareholders, all that means nothing.â Indeed, Ponyâs presence there may suggest heâs in Hong Kong for the long haul.
A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline âMa vs. Ma in Hong Kong: a Luxury Real Estate Rivalry.âSource: Google News Hong Kong | Netizen 24 Hong Kong