China’s former richest man released from prison, still smiling

Business & Technology

After 12 years in prison for insider trading and bribery, entrepreneur Huáng Guāngyù 黄光裕 (aka Wong Kwong-yu) was released on parole on June 25. Formerly China's richest man, Huang's electrical appliance retailer GOME saw its stock price surge 17.39% on the day of his release.

After 12 years in prison for insider trading and bribery, entrepreneur Huáng Guāngyù 黄光裕 (aka Wong Kwong-yu) was released on parole on June 25.

Huang, founder and chairman of electrical appliance retailer GOME, topped Forbes’ list as the richest man in mainland China in 2006 and 2007. Huang’s 2008 arrest sent shockwaves through China because he was widely celebrated as a self-made billionaire.

Huang dropped out of high school in Guangdong Province in 1987 when he was 17, and moved to Beijing to set up a street stall with his brother. Two decades later, this stall had turned into China’s largest electronic appliance and white goods retailer.

Since his arrest, Huang and his wife, Lisa Dù Juān 杜鹃, have remained primary shareholders of GOME, largely thanks to Du’s fierce and public battles with other GOME executives for control of the company. Huang continued to run the company from prison, with Du visiting him once a month to discuss important business decisions.

In 2011, the jailed tycoon made a bid for a British Royal Navy aircraft carrier, which he planned to dock off the coast of Hong Kong and use as an exhibition platform for luxury goods. In 2017, Du purchased a $42 million mansion in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The six-story home, known as the Clarence Whitman Mansion, comes complete with a gym and secret passageways, with the floor of a coat closet opening to reveal stairs to the basement, and a hidden door in the library that leads to a card room.

Investors anticipate that Huang’s return will push the company in a new direction, although GOME is not worth nearly as much as it was in 2008. Met with competition from ecommerce giants, the company has sustained losses every year since 2016. However, ecommerce giants Pinduoduo and JD.com invested $300 million in May. On the day of Huang’s release, GOME stocks soared 17.39%.