a man holding a sign: Jumei CEO Chen Ou – the Chinese entrepreneur who made billions, lost billions, but did it his way. Photo: sohu.com Jumei CEO Chen Ou – the Chinese entrepreneur who made billions, lost billions, but did it his way. Photo: sohu.com

Chinese entrepreneur Chen Ou has been famous ever since his company, Jumei, was launched in 2010. The New York-listed lifestyle retailer offers a variety of beauty and fashion products in China at attractive prices " and in 2014 Chen was crowned as the youngest publicly-listed CEO in China when the company was listed on the Nasdaq index.

In April, Chen made global headlines again when his company completed privatisation, following his earlier announcement of retreating from the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) in January 2020. At its peak, Jumei was worth more than US$5.78 billion, with Chen himself worth around US$1.7 billion, but today both are only valued at a fraction.

Chen is not only known for his entrepreneurship but also his handsome appearance. Called "Mr Right" by many, he created a famous catchphrase and successful marketing campaign for the enterprise, which reads "I'm Chen Ou, I'm my own ambassador".

So, who is this good-looking millennial CEO that fascinated the stock market and consumers' wallets alike?

He aced at school

a person standing in front of a brick building: Chen Ou walks the walk all right. Photo: Sina.com © Provided by South China Morning Post Chen Ou walks the walk all right. Photo: Sina.com

Born in Sichuan province in 1983, Chen received a scholarship to study at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University when he was just 16 years old. He then continued his education at Stanford University where he became the youngest Chinese person ever to receive an MBA, aged 26.

Jumei is not his first company

Jumei is not Chen's first company, but his third. When he was at Nanyang, he co-founded an online gaming platform called Garena. Then after graduating from Stanford, he co-founded a venture with his two classmates called Reemake. The company was focused on running ad spots on online games. Both companies failed.

It wasn't until 2010 that Chen Ou found success. Not long after its launch, Jumei garnered a lot of attention from customers and investors as Chen, 31 at the time, became China's youngest billionaire by 2014.

He is his own spokesperson

a man wearing sunglasses: Chen Ou, CEO of Jumei, isn't afraid of the spotlight. Photo: 163.com © Provided by South China Morning Post Chen Ou, CEO of Jumei, isn't afraid of the spotlight. Photo: 163.com

Jumei didn't use a celebrity as its brand ambassador but featured the young, smart, good-looking CEO himself. With his "I'm my own ambassador" campaign, in a month, Chen's followers on Weibo increased by 50 per cent.

Not only did this save the company millions in marketing but it also epitomised the company's image of being young and visionary. Chen also appeared in TV shows to promote his products and himself.

Fake problems

In May 2014, Jumei decided to go public on the New York Stock Exchange " another landmark in Chen's stellar career.

Not long after going public, Jumei faced a fake-goods scandal. Jumei's business model relied on third parties to source its products. Once customers found fake goods circulating via its e-commerce platform, Jumei's performance and stock price suffered greatly. Soon after, Chen started to retreat from social media.

The delisting drama

With mounting problems at Jumei, in 2017 Chen announced that he would buy back all depository shares, priced at US$7, at once removing his company from the NYSE, when the retailer's issuance price was US$22.

In early 2020, however, Chen retracted his 2017 announcement and said he would in fact buy back the depository shares at US$20. Investors welcomed the news as the stock was priced around US$17 at the time.

Other business adventures

a hand holding a remote control: Chen Ou invested in the portable power bank start-up AnkerBox. Photo: sohu.com © Provided by South China Morning Post Chen Ou invested in the portable power bank start-up AnkerBox. Photo: sohu.com

Even before Jumei went private, Chen seemed to have his own plan for expanding his business. He decided to invest a total of US$59 million in power bank rental startup AnkerBox and a Chinese TV drama. At the time, investors questioned his decision, but now it seems he made the right call.

Media reported that in 2018, the power bank start-up made an annual profit for the first time. The revenue from the startup made up 21 per cent of Jumei's total revenue that year, despite the fact Jumei only owns three per cent of the startup's stocks.

As Asia's most-moneyed make their mark on the global stage, in this Crazy Rich Asians series, we chart the rise of the region's richest families, most inventive entrepreneurs " and how they spend their epic wealth.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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