By Li Hongmei
Robin Li passed Wang Jianlin as the richest man in China today by just $64 million, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index.
The founder of China's largest Internet search engine Baidu Inc., has become the wealthiest individual in the world's second-biggest economy, 14 days after he took the No. 2 spot.
Li's net worth has climbed by $4.8 billion, or 65 percent, to $12.231 billion so far this year as Baidu shares rallied. Wang, chairman of closely-held Dalian Wanda Group, has seen his fortune rise by $2.9 billion to $12.167 billion in 2013. Four of China's top billionaires are worth about $12 billion.
Baidu is the world's 5th most visited website and China's most popular search engine.
Wang Jianlin, chairman and president of Dalian Wanda Group, China's second-richest man, founded Dalian Wanda, the nation's largest commercial property developer and movie theater operator.
Baidu, whose name is derived from a Chinese poem from the Song dynasty, was co-founded by Li on January 1, 2000 in Beijing's Zhongguancun, China's equivalent of Silicon Valley. The company, which has grown from fewer than 10 employess to more than 17,000 today, sold shares on the Nasdaq in 2005.
The bulk of Li's wealth comes from his 20.8 percent stake in Baidu. The shares are owned by Li and his wife Melissa Dongmin Ma through Handsome Rewards Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-based holding company.
The 45-year-old billionaire also owns 1 percent of 360buy Jingdong Mall, a closely held Chinese online retailer that had revenue of $3.9 billion in 2012.
Li patented his link analysis search-engine algorithm in 1997 at about the same time that Google Inc.'s Sergey Brin and Larry Page developed theirs. Brin and Page are worth more than $29 billion today.
Li, who also goes by his Chinese name Li Yanhong, said in October that his company would continue to invest aggressively in mobile search. Its search app installments rose 50 percent to 330 million users by the end of September vs. three months ago.
Wang's fortune dipped after at least 10 Chinese cities have tightened their property policies in the past month as local governments face pressure to meet annual home-price targets, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd., the nation's biggest real estate brokerage.
Three of China's four major cities -- Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou -- raised minimum down-payment requirements for second-home mortgages to 70 percent from 60 percent.