Who is Pan Dong ?: meet the shy Chinese-Canadian soap mogul

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Pan and her husband run one of China’s best-known cleaning and hygiene empires

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In 2010, Pan Dong and her husband Luo Qiuping called prominent Chinese investor Zhang Lei.

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Pan, a Canadian citizen living in Hong Kong according to Forbes, and Luo had met Zhang four years earlier when their company, Blue Moon Group Holdings Ltd, mainly sold liquid hand soap. The business was still small, but Luo and Pan had since developed a new liquid laundry detergent. Zhang, the boss of Beijing-based Hillhouse Capital Group, was well known for his early winning bets on fledgling Chinese companies, such as Tencent and JD.com.

He spied on the potential of Blue Moon’s liquid detergent and would not have been deterred by the industry standard of the time. As a 2015 New York Times article noted, most multinational companies only sold powder detergents in China, assuming consumers wouldn’t pay more for the liquid versions. Zhang, who himself is worth $ 3 billion according to Forbes, disagrees. He invested heavily in Blue Moon and encouraged its push into liquid detergents.

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Today, according to Bloomberg, Blue Moon is known as “P&G of China,” after US consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble Co., which develops, manufactures and sells personal hygiene products. , cleaning products and detergents.

In 2020, it recorded revenues of around HK $ 7 billion ($ 1.1 billion) and profits totaling HK $ 1.3 billion ($ 209 million). “Blue Moon is a classic example of how a local brand beats multinationals in emerging markets,” Zhang, the forward-thinking investor, concluded in his book “The Value”.

Blue Moon’s success also propelled Pan into the ranks of global billionaires. Blue Moon, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands but headquartered in Guangzhou, China, went public last December, and Pan retains 77% of the company. Forbes, in its global billionaire rankings, places Pan in 297 place, with a net worth of $ 8.3 billion.

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The rise of Pan is generally presented as a story from teacher to billionaire. According to her company biography, she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in organic chemistry from Wuhan University. She taught organic chemistry at university level in China for 10 years and then obtained an MBA from Lawrence Technological University in Michigan. His company biography does not mention any connection to Canada.

She joined Blue Moon as CTO and is, according to the company, primarily responsible for its technology development. Pan, 55, has been Chairman of the Board of Blue Moon since 2007, while Luo, her husband, a certified chemical engineer with a master’s degree in organic chemistry, has been managing director since 2008.

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According to Forbes, three of Canada’s top ten billionaires are Chinese entrepreneurs.

Another is Huang Chulong, 62, chairman of Galaxy Holding Group, an umbrella company covering a large number of Chinese companies in industries as diverse as finance and investment, real estate development, hotels, shopping malls, property management, energy, and design. Huang founded the company that became Galaxy in 1988. Forbes now estimates his net worth at $ 6.8 billion.

The extent of Chulong and Pan’s Canadian ties is not apparent. Chulong is a resident of Shenzhen City, in southern China, where Galaxy is based. Several emails sent to the company were not returned.

A spokesperson for Blue Moon said Pan, who lives in Hong Kong, had a “busy schedule” and was not available for an interview. The spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up email regarding Pan’s connection to Canada.

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A Blue Moon product.
A Blue Moon product. Photo by company website

Bruce Dickson, who has written extensively on the relationship between the ruling Communist Party in China and the country’s private sector entrepreneurs, says Chinese businessmen largely avoid talking to the media. “A lot of them are trying to keep a low profile,” Dickson, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington DC, said in an interview.

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He cited Jack Ma, the famous Chinese entrepreneur behind online retail giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and the fintech goliath Ant Group, as an example of the communist country’s complex relationship with its billionaire entrepreneurs. In a speech last fall, as Ant was preparing to go public, Ma slammed the country’s financial regulators. Ant’s IPO was halted and Ma, a very public figure, largely disappeared from public view.

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Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba de Ma and third Chinese entrepreneur among Forbes’ ten biggest Canadian billionaires – a net worth of $ 11.6 billion – said that Ma had started painting and was leading a “normal life.” “.

“One of the informal rules of the game in China, not only for entrepreneurs, but more generally, is not to publicly criticize party and government leaders, especially at the central level,” Dickson said. “It’s just not done.”

Dickson also wondered aloud if Chinese-Canadian entrepreneurs might now be even more reluctant to speak publicly, given that China is angry with Canada over the detention of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies. Co .. Meng is in the final stages of his fight against extradition to the United States for fraud, more than two and a half years after his arrest sparked a diplomatic standoff between China, the United States and Canada .

“In the past, Canadians were the privileged foreign group in China, mostly because they were not Americans. And the Chinese government and many Chinese loved Canadians, ”Dickson said. “But (Chinese Canadians) may not want to talk to the media, especially the Canadian media, because … their background is now an added complication.”

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In-depth reporting on The Logic’s innovation economy, presented in partnership with the Financial Post.

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