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ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming is now the richest internet tycoon in China

Written by Jiaxing Li Published on     2 mins read

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Zhang’s net worth has surpassed Jack Ma and Pony Ma, but ByteDance faces an uncharted regulatory environment.

Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance, has become China’s richest person in the internet sector with a net worth of USD 59.4 billion, Forbes’ billionaire ranking shows.

The 38-year-old entrepreneur ranks 20th among the world’s wealthiest individuals and second in China, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaires list. Zhong Shanshan, founder of bottled water company Nongfu Spring, secured the top spot among Chinese billionaires, with a net worth of more than USD 60 billion.

Pony Ma and Jack Ma, founders of the country’s two largest internet conglomerates, Tencent and Alibaba, followed Zhang in the China rankings. Their net worth shrank significantly while Chinese tech companies face crackdowns related to anti-competitive business practices, data security, and fintech operations.

In the past six months, Pony Ma has lost over USD 15 billion, with his net worth plunging by more than 20% to USD 49.7 billion. Jack Ma also saw his fortunes tumble by nearly USD 6 billion and drop to USD 42.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Zhang’s net worth has increased by over 65% since April to reach USD 59.4 billion. In May, Zhang issued an internal letter announcing that he would step down as ByteDance’s CEO by the end of 2021.

After China rolled out a slew of regulations targeting the internet giants, ByteDance slowed down its operations that earned the company the reputation of being an “app factory.” ByteDance downsized its operations in the edtech and finance sectors earlier this year, and its online gaming and commercialization business also had shakeups recently.

This week, some ByteDance employees posted on social media saying that they are about to be laid off. Over 100 ByteDance employees based in Wenzhou were asked to resign within two days, Chinese media The Economic Observer reported on Tuesday.

The staff members who were cut were mostly part of the commercialization department, which is responsible for selling ads on apps like Douyin and news aggregator Toutiao. More than 20 people were laid off from the company’s online gaming platform Ohayoo, an anonymous user said on social media Zhihu, and almost all employees who were fresh graduates were let go.

ByteDance said the layoffs are part of the company’s restructuring but did not elaborate further, according to The Paper. One of ByteDance’s major investors, Susquehanna International Group (SIG), is looking to sell about USD 500 million worth of the company’s shares, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

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