Roger L. Simon

Will the next Edison come from China?

Or India? Well, the odds are in its favor anyway. But just not the odds, the atmosphere. I was astonished [Don’t exaggerate. You know that’s where things are headed.-ed.] to read this Forbes article on Wang Chuan-Fu, the CEO of Chinese company BYD. The Shenzen battery makers are on track to lead the world in the electric car category. You will note, in the article, that Wang isn’t interested in a bailout:

One more thing reassured him. Berkshire Hathaway first tried to buy 25% of BYD, but Wang turned down the offer. He wanted to be in business with Buffett – to enhance his brand and open doors in the U.S., he says – but he would not let go of more than 10% of BYD’s stock. “This was a man who didn’t want to sell his company,” Buffett says. “That was a good sign.”

He’s also not interested in a bonus, from the government or anybody else:

As for accumulating wealth? “I’m not interested in it,” he claims. He certainly doesn’t live a very lavish lifestyle. He was paid about $265,000 in 2008, and he lives in a BYD-owned apartment complex with other engineers. His only indulgences are a Mercedes and a Lexus, and they have a practical purpose: He takes their engines apart to see how they work. On a trip to the U.S., he once tried to disassemble the seat of a Toyota owned by Fred Ni, an executive who was driving him around. Shortly after BYD went public, Wang did something extraordinary: He took approximately 15% of his holdings in BYD and distributed the shares to about 20 other executives and engineers at the company. He still owns roughly 28% of the shares, worth about $1 billion.

For those interested in capitalism… go East, young man. Far East.