One of China's biggest magnates and the chairman of investment bank China Renaissance has gone missing, sending the shares of the company into a tailspin and triggering rumors about detention by Chinese authorities. The company's board said it had no information about the whereabouts of chairmen Bao Fan.
"The board is not aware of any information that indicates that Mr. Bao's unavailability is or might be related to the business and/or operations of the group," the private equity bank said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Shares of China Renaissance plunged as much as 50 percent following the news.
Who is Bao Fan?
Bao, who had earlier worked with Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, started China Renaissance in 2005. Bao, who started his investment banking career in the late 1990s, is well known as one of China's best-connected bankers. By establishing China Renaissance, he aimed to use his international connections to feed China's startup sector with funds from venture capitalists and private equity investors.
He started the firm as a two-person enterprise, but the company went on to become the ninth ranked on China's equity capital markets league table for 2023. One of Bao's biggest succeses was brokering a merger deal between food delivery services Meituan and Dianping.
Where is Bao?
There has been no news about Bao's whereabouts though rumors of his missing started spreading days ago. Among unprecedented crisis and a stock plunge, China Renaissance asked employees to "not believe in or spread rumors."
Bao's stature in China's financial industry and the complete lack of information about his whereabouts have sparked speculation that he has been detained by Chinese authorities.
Beijing unleashed fierce crackdown on tech and internet companies in the last several years, with business leaders like Jack Ma among the high profile targets in the past. Chinese giants like Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan and Didi had all come under intense scrutiny and unexplained restrictions in the past.
China's relentless crackdown on its technology industry led to whopping value erosion at a clutch of leading tech behemoths. According to data from Goldman Sachs, major Chinese tech companies listed overseas have lost more than $1 trillion within a few months in 2021.
"Investment bank China Renaissance says it cannot contact its chairman and CEO Bao Fan. The entrepreneur appears to be the latest high-profile Chinese executive to go missing with little explanation," DW tweeted.