The Chinese tech sector was rocked last week with the sudden disappearance of Bao Fan, the billionaire founder and chairman of one of the top investment banks in the country, China Renaissance. The company announced in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday that it “has been unable to contact” Bao, sending shares tumbling by nearly 50 percent in Friday’s trading session.
Bao, who began his career as an M&A banker with Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, founded China Renaissance in 2005 and has since become a key player in the Chinese tech scene, advising major firms on mergers and public listings, including Didi Global’s controversial 2021 IPO in New York. He is also an investor in China’s tech sector, backing companies like electric carmaker Nio.
The company said in its filing that it is “not aware of any information that indicates that Mr. Bao’s unavailability is or might be related to the business and/or operations of the group, which is continuing normally.” However, due to Bao’s involvement in the company’s “overall strategic planning and business direction”, his absence could have a major impact.
The disappearance of Bao is reminiscent of other high-profile cases in China, including the mysterious disappearance of Jack Ma, the founder of tech behemoth Alibaba, who dropped out of public view for a year after making critical comments about China’s financial regulators before reemerging in public in late 2021. Last August, Chinese-Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua was sentenced to thirteen years in prison on corruption charges after his arrest by mainland authorities in 2017.
China Renaissance president Cong Lin is also involved in a probe, according to Bloomberg, and the company’s share price has already plunged by almost 30 percent. Bao’s absence is expected to have a major impact on the bank and other companies in the tech sector. The company said in its filing that the executive committee will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day management and operations of the group.
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1. “Bao Fan: Billionaire tech banker in China reported missing” BBC, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-64672095
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