Contribution: Li has turned PCCW into one of Asia's biggest Net
companies, investing in dozens of startups and kick-starting e-commerce in Hong
Challenge: His bid for local telecom power Cable & Wireless HKT is
in danger now that Hong Kong's Net fever has cooled and his stock is down about
half. Rivals Singapore Telecom and News Corp. may team up to steal HKT away.
When Hong Kong opened a new suburban airport, Net tycoon Richard Li was miffed.
He could no longer pilot his Cessna past tenements onto the city's scary old
landing space. ''Taking off from the airport is, like, who cares?'' he says.
Li doesn't shy away from a challenge. In little more than a year, the
33-year-old son of local real estate billionaire Li Ka-shing has created a
regional cyberpower. His company, Pacific Century CyberWorks, has invested in
43 Net startups. It also plans to provide high-speed Web access and interactive
TV programming. Right now, Li is pressing a $38 billion bid to buy Hong Kong's
premier telecom operator, Cable & Wireless HKT.
While the deal is in jeopardy because of market volatility, Li has spurred a
slew of copycat Net initiatives. Li has been ''responsible for a total
turnaround of Hong Kong's view of e-commerce,'' says Hong Kong Chamber of
Commerce's Ian Perkin. Those daredevil instincts in the cockpit are paying off.