A little-known but fast-growing Chinese maker of batteries for electric vehicles now has more billionaires on Forbes’ list than just about any other public company. A whopping nine billionaires have fortunes of $1 billion or more based on their stakes in Contemporary Amperex Technology (known as CATL). Shares of the firm, which supplies batteries to automakers including BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, have soared over 150% in the past year as demand for electric vehicles has heated up. CATL’s founder and chairman, 52-year-old Robin Zeng, is now the 47th-richest person in the world, worth $32.5 billion, more than triple the $9.7 billion fortune he sported in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic crashed the market. Zeng owns around 25% of the company.
Other CATL executives have attained seriously large fortunes as well. Co-vice chairs Huang Shilin and Li Ping boast net worths of $14.7 billion and $6.6 billion, respectively; early investor Pei Zhenhua, who purchased a stake in 2015, is worth an estimated $8.5 billion. Zhao Fenggang (worth $2.4 billion), Wu Kai ($2.3 billion), Wu Yingming ($1.9 billion), Chen Qiongxiang ($1.8 billion) and Chen Yuantai ($1.3 billion) leapt onto the billionaires list for the first time in 2021. Four of the five hold various management roles at CATL, while Chen Qiongxiang is an early investor.
The amount of wealth produced—together the nine people are worth $72 billion—is a staggering feat for a decade-old company. Forbes has found eight billionaires each from tech giant Google and Facebook, while retailer Walmart has also produced eight billionaires—seven of whom are descendants of founder Sam Walton and his brother Bud Walton. A few family owned conglomerates—like agriculture giant Cargill—have spawned more billionaires due to the large number of heirs, but among publicly traded companies, only one other firm, Chinese soy sauce maker Foshan Haitian Flavouring & Food, has put nine people on Forbes’ billionaires rankings.