Tycoon Li Ka-shing is known for his even temper and patient manner, especially in front of the camera. It would be easy to believe Hong Kong’s “superman” had never gotten angry.
He did whack a table once, however – as he recounts in an interview with Business Weekly.
In an exclusive print interview – the first following Li’s announcement last week of his retirement – the Taiwanese magazine, which is owned by TOM Group, a media conglomerate Li controls, quotes his recollection of this table-thumping moment.
It dates back to the 1950s. Li’s plastic flower business had taken off and at times of great demand some buyers tried to offer higher rates to secure their orders; however Li always gave priority to his biggest client, Nicholas Marsh, a Jewish American who headed Joseph Markovits Inc.
When a new CEO took over Joseph Markovits, however, he acted as though the company was Li’s only customer and insulted the firm and its staff. Says Li: “For the first time – and the only time in my life – I thumbed the table and asked him to leave.
“At that time I had no worry because I am 100% sure he would only get a higher price from others.”
“In the end, the company’s chairman found out about it and quickly offered a 30% price increase… The hiccup was quickly resolved in hours.”
Li also told the magazine that in business he always prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. He insists he has always kept the possibility of failure in view and that this motivated him to maintain a strong cash flow as he built an empire spanning multiple sectors across 57 counties.