He founded Hutchison Whampoa and is considered to be one of the most powerful figures in Asia and was named "Asia's Most Powerful Man" by AsiaWeek in 2000. That same year, Forbes listed his personal wealth at US $11.3 billion, putting him ahead of Rupert Murdoch.
Li is well known for his no-frills lifestyle, such as wearing cheap shoes and old watches. He also lacks a corporate jet or other luxurious amenities. It is also believed he has close ties with the PRC government and the senior officals, especially Jiang Zemin.
In 1940, the Li family fled to Hong Kong as the Japanese invaded China. After getting his first job as a watch strap salesman, and became a wholesale salesman at age 17, and a general manager at age 19.
In 1949, he founded a plastics company in Hong Kong, and was known for making a fortune in plastic flowers. In 1958, he made his first move into real estate and by 1971, had created Cheung Kong Real Estate Company (長江地產有限公司), named after the Cheung Kong (or Chang Jiang)-the longest river in China. That company would eventually acquire Hutchison Whampoa Limited in 1979 and Hongkong Electric Holdings Limited in 1985, creating a massive conglomerate in multiple industries.
His two sons Victor Li (李澤鉅) and Richard Li (李澤楷) are also major players in Hong Kong's business environment. Victor Li works directly with his father as managing director and deputy chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited, while Richard Li is the head of Pacific Century Cyber Works, the largest telecoms company in Hong Kong.