A bottled water entrepreneur with a nearly $60 billion fortune has replaced Alibaba’s Jack Ma as China’s richest person

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Zhong Shanshan, owner of Nongfu Spring. Jiang Xin/VCG via Getty Images
  • Zhong Shanshan, who owns China’s largest bottled water company Nongfu Spring, has become the country’s richest person.
  • His fortune trebled after Nongfu was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange earlier in September.
  • He knocks Alibaba’s Jack Ma, who spent most of the last six years at the top of China’s rich list, into second place.
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A bottled water entrepreneur known as the “Lone Wolf” has replaced Alibaba’s Jack Ma as China’s richest person after his fortune trebled.

The personal fortune of Zhong Shanshan, who owns China’s largest bottled water company Nongfu Spring, has soared to $US58.7 billion,Bloomberg estimated.

This makes him the 17th richest person in the world on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, and the second-wealthiest person in Asia after Reliance Industries’ Mukesh Ambani.

Nongfu was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange earlier this month and its share price has risen by around 77%. Zhong owns 84% of the company’s shares.

Zhong also owns and has a 74% stake in the pharmaceutical and diagnostics company Wantai, which produces hepatitis vaccines and COVID-19 testing kits.

His fortune has risen by almost $US52 billion so far this year. The only people whose net worth has risen more in 2020 are Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk — but Musk’s fell almost $US10 billion after Tesla said upcoming battery developments won’t reach mass production for another two years.

Jack Ma’s fortune is currently estimated at $US56.7 billion — pushing him down to the 19th richest person in the world. He has spent most of the last six years at the top of China’s rich list.

Zhong has been dubbed the “Lone Wolf” because he reportedly avoids business groups and politics.

According to a Financial Times profile, Zhong dropped out of school aged 12 during the Chinese cultural revolution. After jobs in construction and journalism, Zhong began working in business selling mushrooms and healthcare supplements.

He founded Nongfu in 1996, and sales have boomed because the country’s tap water is generally considered unsafe for drinking. Nongfu has since expanded to sell energy drinks, coffee, yogurt, and rice.