Wang Xuning “CJ” invented the world’s first electric machine for making soy milk three decades ago, inspired by an elderly childhood neighbor who sold soy products and always looked exhausted.
The Chinese native expanded his empire into the US by 2017 — just in time to avoid China’s economic struggles and stock-market losses in recent years. Wang, 54, is now worth $3.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which is valuing his wealth for the first time.
The crux of Wang’s fortune stems from his latest venture: SharkNinja Inc., a Needham Heights, Massachusetts-based maker of everything from vacuum cleaners to hair dryers and fryers. It was the largest seller of small-kitchen appliances in the US in the three years through 2022, according to its latest disclosures. The stock listed in New York last year and is trading near record highs.
“SharkNinja’s New York listing unlocks its valuation,” said Walter Woo, a research analyst at CMB International Capital in Hong Kong. Listing in the US, where investors are more aware of the company and its products, enabled it to gain publicity, he added.
Chinese tycoons on the Bloomberg index tracking the 500 richest people in the world have lost almost $320 billion in the past three years. But those who had investments abroad fared better. Zhang Yiming, a ByteDance Ltd. co-founder, has seen his fortune jump to $42.3 billion from $13 billion in 2020 as TikTok became the first non-game mobile app to generate $10 billion in consumer spending.
Recently, more Chinese companies have opted to list in the US. Some 37 firms from the Asian nation went public on American exchanges last year, raising $827 million — up from 16 initial public offerings in 2022 raising $536 million, according to Deloitte, which projects the trend will continue in 2024.
Born in the eastern coastal province of Shandong, Wang studied electric traction and transmission control in Beijing before the government assigned him to teach at a vocational school. After creating an electric machine easing the burden of producing soy milk at home — something that was common in China back then — he built his first factory in 1996. Two years later, the company that would become part of Joyoung Co. had more than 100 retailers across the country, and it sold more than 1 million soy-milk makers by 2004.
Joyoung listed in Shenzhen in 2008, and Wang started JS Global Lifestyle Co., another appliances company, a decade later. SharkNinja came in 2017, when one of Wang’s vehicles bought a majority stake in the US firm. JS Global took full ownership of SharkNinja in 2019, the year JS Global joined the Hong Kong stock exchange. SharkNinja was spun off from the Hong Kong entity and started trading in New York via a direct listing last year.
Wang now owns 42% of SharkNinja and holds a similar stake in JS Global. He no longer has direct ownership of Joyoung.
A representative for JS Global said there is a “discrepancy” in Bloomberg’s calculation of Wang’s fortune, declining to give further details. His wealth estimate is based on the latest public filings available from the stock exchanges in the US, Hong Kong and China.
Just like Shein — founded by another Shandong native, Chris Xu, who’s now worth $21.5 billion — SharkNinja manufactures its products in China but sells them mostly abroad. More than 95% of its $3.7 billion revenue in 2022 came from North America and Europe, and it had 60% of the electrical cooking pot market in the UK.
The strategy has paid off as consumer confidence in China remains low despite government efforts to spur consumption. Meanwhile, US consumer confidence has improved. SharkNinja’s sales climbed 13% in the nine months through September.
“SharkNinja has a positive outlook,” Woo said.