Get All Access for $5/mo

The Chinese Warren Buffett Is the Latest Financier to Go Missing He might be involved in an anti-corruption case.

By Scott Cendrowski

This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine

It's hard to imagine Warren Buffett, JP Morgan's CEO Jamie Dimon, or hedge fund manger Bill Ackman disappearing without explanation. But that's what's been happening to their counterparts in China over the last few months.

The latest is that the chairman of conglomerate Fosun, Guo Guangchang, has been out of contact with the company for at least a day, Caixin said. Trading was halted Friday in two of conglomerate's listed firms in Hong Kong. Postings yesterday on Chinese social media said Guo was seen being taken away by police at a Shanghai airport, Caixin notes. Requests for comment to Fosun today went unreturned.

Guo and Fosun have international reputations for emulating Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate model by using insurance assets to expand into other industries. Fosun has taken stakes in Cirque du Soleil, Club Mediterranée, and two years ago bought the former Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York. Fosun dished out almost $6 billion over the past two years acquiring insurance assets, according to a Bloomberg tally.

In other words, this is not a provincial Chinese company without influence.

Guo's absence doesn't mean he's guilty of anything. The process is just the way the Chinese run their investigations. Witnesses can be "taken away" to help police and investigators build cases. China's judicial system is opaque and controlled by the ruling Communist Party; its investigations are no different.

China's probe into its finance industry, and this summer's stock meltdown in particular, is in full swing. Earlier this week, the resignation of the head of China's fourth-largest state-owned bank was linked to a corruption investigation. Last week anonymous sources confirmed that one of the most powerful anti-corruption investigators, Fu Zhenghua, an enforcer with close ties to President Xi Jinping, was leading the probe into the summer's stock meltdown.

Before Fosun, the most notable case of a disappearance was that of Li Yifei, chairwoman of the Chinese unit of London's largest listed hedge fund manager, Man Group Plc. Bloomberg reported, and Li later denied, that she was taken into custody to assist with a police probe into the stock crash.

In China, these type of investigations must be viewed with cynicism because they can be used by the leadership to expunge rival power factions. China watchers note that the recent focus on the financial industry may be part honest insider trading investigation, but also a political purge of rival factions.

The Guo case is just the latest of disappearances.

In late November, a subsidiary of one of China's largest brokerages, Guotai Junan, confirmed that it hadn't been able to reach its chairman since the previous week. The suspicion was that Yim Fung had been "taken away" by authorities, a Chinese euphemism for executives being taken into police custody, to help in the investigation of the stock market crash that caused global equities to shed $5 trillion in shareholder value.

Earlier in September, the assistant chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Zhang Yujun, who was leading the regulators' efforts to prop up the stock market this summer, was removed from office for a "severe violation of discipline," or corruption.

In the beginning of the year, the president of China Minsheng Bank, the country's first privately run bank, resigned after Caixin, again, reported that he had been investigated for corruption.

At the time, Fosun's Guo sold off his entire stake in the publicly traded Minsheng. News of his disappearance has brought the probe full circle.

Scott Cendrowski is a writer for Fortune, covering China.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.


This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.


Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.