(p. B1) In mid-January , star Chinese investment banker Fan Bao, architect of the deals that created some of China’s most dominant technology companies, appeared at his bank’s annual party in Beijing. . . . He exhorted the hundreds of staffers in attendance to “Go Forward Boldly.”
A few weeks later, he disappeared.
For the past month, the 52-year-old banker—who set out to build the JPMorgan of China and successfully straddled the divide between China and the West—has been held incommunicado in a detention system run by the Communist Party’s anticorruption agency.
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(p. B6) Privately, close associates of Mr. Bao have been dismayed by his detention. China Renaissance Holdings Ltd., the boutique investment bank he founded and ran, is a relatively small firm, making it unusual that it would draw this manner of government scrutiny. Colleagues, business partners, friends and acquaintances of Mr. Bao are worried about his safety and are hoping he will soon resurface publicly. “I feel utterly disillusioned,” said a person close to Mr. Bao.
The jolt to business people’s confidence also comes as anxiety over China’s direction, its curtailing of people’s rights, and the way it managed the Covid-19 pandemic is leading more middle-class and wealthy Chinese citizens to relocate to other countries. Global investors have been rethinking their exposure to the world’s second-largest economy following a selloff over the past two years that was largely caused by Beijing’s regulatory crackdowns and policy decisions.
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Some Chinese entrepreneurs who previously went missing have reappeared quickly. Guo Guangchang, the billionaire chairman of Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun Group, emerged days after a mysterious detention by authorities in late 2015. He continues to run Fosun and was never charged with any wrongdoing.
Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese financier who ran a conglomerate called the Tomorrow Group, was taken from Hong Kong in 2017 and didn’t reappear for five years. He turned up in a Shanghai court last year to face corruption charges and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
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Mr. Bao believed China was on the cusp of a new-economy revolution and connected early on with young entrepreneurs who were trying to get their internet-technology startups off the ground.
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Mr. Bao tried to adapt to the new environment, shifting his attention to pursuing deals in industries like semiconductors that remained in Beijing’s good graces.
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Mr. Bao’s last post on Chinese social media WeChat was on Jan. 9 , a few days before the China Renaissance party. He congratulated Fenbi Ltd., a vocational training provider and a portfolio company in his firm’s fund, on its Hong Kong listing. Under his personal status, Mr. Bao had written: “Dream as if u’ll live forever, live as if u’ll die today.”
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(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 18, 2023, was listed with the title “China’s M&A Star Tells Staff to Be Bold—Then He Disappears,” and had the title “China’s M&A Star Told His Employees to Be Bold—Then He Disappeared” at the top of the story.)