Meet the Harvard Graduate Who’s Heir to the World’s Biggest Jewelry Empire

A multi-billion dollar Hong Kong conglomerate is facing a shift in leadership that would place a 36-year-old Harvard graduate in the captain’s chair.

Having served as the Executive Vice-chairman and Joint General Manager of New World Development, China’s largest foreign direct investor, and executive director of Chow Tai Fook Jewelry Group, the world’s largest jewelry firm, Adrian Cheng is set to take over the leadership post for the two companies.

The impending transition is expected after his father, 69-year-old Henry Cheng, took a leave due to an undisclosed illness, reported Bloomberg. Now, the grandson of the late magnate Cheng Yu-tung is expected to have his hands full.

While the younger Cheng has been groomed to take over the family business for years, observers are now foreseeing a challenging task for him should the transition be made sooner than later.

Reports have noted a significant decline in the property-development firm’s earnings while a recent drop in the demand for high-end jewelry has been observed. Retaining past connections and creating new ones have also been noted as challenges for Cheng as the family’s governance have been put into question in recent years. Previous errors have reportedly caused investors to have negative perceptions about the group.

Challenges aside, Hong Kong-based analyst at CIMB Securities Ltd., Raymond Cheng (unrelated) is confident that Adrian Cheng is more than ready to turn the tide for the firms.

“Even if Henry were to take a long leave, I don’t see a problem elevating Adrian’s role,” the analyst said. “It wouldn’t be bad news for him to fully take over.”

Family-run Business expert and Chinese University of Hong Kong professor Joseph P.H. Fan pointed out that the Harvard-educated leader needs to prove himself.

“He doesn’t need to be a know-it-all in business operations because the professional teams will do it for him, but he needs to prove he’s capable of bringing everyone together,” Fan was quoted as saying. 

The Cheng family currently controls four companies listed on the stock market with a total market value of over $25 billion.  

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