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Asia’s tycoon, billionaire and empire-builder Li Ka-shing retires

  • Billionaire Li Ka-shing announces his retirement from the business empire he built over nearly seven decades.
  • Li, 89, will be succeeded by his eldest son, Victor, who is deputy chairman of CK Hutchison and CK Asset.

Billionaire Li Ka-shing announced his retirement Friday from the business empire he built over nearly seven decades.

Li, 89, will step down as chairman of Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison and property giant CK Asset after the annual general meeting on May 10, the tycoon said. He said he will continue to serve as senior advisor to the company.

"I would like to express my heart-felt appreciation to our shareholders for their unfailing confidence and support in the past years," Li said at a news conference in Hong Kong.

Li will be succeeded by his eldest son, Victor, who was named as "successor in principle" last year. The younger Li, 53, is currently the deputy chairman of CK Hutchison and CK Asset.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing announced his retirement on March 16, 2018.
Emily Tan | CNBC
Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing announced his retirement on March 16, 2018.

Li said he was confident in his son's ability to take charge, highlighting his many years of experience. He also told reporters he felt "grateful and blessed" that he was able to create CK Holdings, able to create wealth for shareholders and give back to society.

"Every detail has left a footprint in my heart. From now onwards, I'll take on the role of senior consultant, advisor, and put on my new armor and will put in all efforts into my funds management, especially health and medical," he added.

Speculation about Li's retirement emerged as early as last year when The Wall Street Journal reported that the businessman planned to step down in 2018.

In recent weeks, speculation has intensified because all of Li's companies were scheduled to report earnings on the same day — for the first time ever.

Friday's announcement marks the end of a storied career that saw Li build from scratch a commercial empire that today touches almost every aspect of life in Hong Kong and beyond: telecommunications, property, shipping and retail.

The conglomerate now spans more than 50 countries and employs 300,000 people globally. Li's two companies have a combined market capitalization of more than $80 billion, according to Reuters data.

Li, with an estimated net worth of $35.3 billion, is the richest person in Hong Kong and the 23rd wealthiest individual in the world, according to Forbes.

CNBC's Vivian Kam and Emily Tan contributed to this report.