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Weijian Shan, chairman of PAG, a major Asian private equity firm, has become a billionaire

Weijian Shan

Weijian Shan, a dealmaker based in Hong Kong and co-founder and chairman of PAG, which is one of the largest private equity firms in Asia, has recently become a billionaire. Shan, aged 69, is among a limited number of private equity experts in Hong Kong to achieve this feat, as the city’s wealthy list is predominantly dominated by real estate tycoons and their families.

PAG, which has $50 billion in assets under management, recently revealed in a regulatory filing that Weijian Shan is its largest individual shareholder, holding a stake of between 25% to 49.9% in his name.

Forbes estimates that Shan’s net worth is at least $1 billion solely based on his stake in PAG. However, Shan disputed the accuracy of this estimation, stating that his wealth is insufficient to qualify him for Forbes’ wealth rankings, but did not provide further details.

In Asia, only a few billionaires have amassed their wealth through private equity. This small group includes Jean Salata of BPEA EQT (with $22 billion in assets under management) in Hong Kong, Michael Kim of MBK Partners (with $26 billion in AUM) in South Korea, and Lei Zhang of Hillhouse (with $65 billion in AUM) in China.

PAG, headquartered in Hong Kong and staffed by roughly 300 investment experts across 12 locations, has invested over $70 billion, primarily in Asia. Earlier this year, PAG partnered with Mapletree Investments, a real estate developer owned by Temasek, to acquire the Goldin Financial Global Centre office tower in Hong Kong for $713 million.

The tower was previously owned by Chinese former billionaire Pan Sutong. In August of last year, PAG also agreed to purchase Huis Ten Bosch, one of Japan’s major theme park operators, for roughly $720 million.

In March of last year, PAG filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong, which could potentially generate $2 billion and value the private equity firm at up to $15 billion. The IPO was set to become one of the largest listings in Asia’s financial hub for 2022. However, according to a report by Bloomberg News, PAG postponed the IPO due to stock market volatility.

Originally named Pacific Alliance Group, PAG was established in 2002 as a hedge fund by Chris Gradel, a former consultant at McKinsey. Weijian Shan joined PAG in 2010 after working as the top China dealmaker for U.S. private equity firm TPG Capital for 12 years. Shan’s role at PAG was to spearhead the company’s private equity business.

During his time at TPG, Shan led the acquisition of a state-owned Chinese bank by a foreign investor. In 2004, TPG’s Asian subsidiary, then known as Newbridge Capital, acquired a controlling interest in Shenzhen Development Bank for approximately $150 million.

TPG later sold its stake to Ping An Insurance based in Shenzhen in 2010 for $1.68 billion, making it one of TPG’s most well-known exits. Prior to his tenure at TPG, Shan worked as a managing director at JPMorgan Chase and was also an assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

In March of last year, Weijian Shan joined the board of directors of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. He has also served on the boards of several other prominent companies, including Wilmar International, Bank of China Hong Kong, Baosteel, and Lenovo.

Shan was born in Beijing and grew up during the tumultuous period of the Cultural Revolution. As a teenager, he worked in the Gobi Desert in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region. His memoir, published in 2019, is titled Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America.

Shan earned a degree in English from the Beijing University of International Business and Economics before obtaining an MBA from the University of San Francisco. He later earned a master’s degree in economics and a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley, where U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen served as one of his thesis advisors.

Yellen wrote the foreword to Shan’s Out of the Gobi, stating that “Shan’s life provides a demonstration of what is possible when China and the United States come together, even by happenstance.”

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