A major Chinese tech entrepreneur has defied regulators' orders to return home, writing Tuesday that his wife and brother would deal with the debt woes plaguing his LeEco conglomerate. Jia Yueting, the 44-year-old head of a tech empire that has spanned electric cars and smartphones, posted a letter on social media to the Beijing branch of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, which last week ordered him to return to China before the end of 2017. The one-time billionaire is believed to be in the U.S., attempting to build up his Los Angeles-based electric car company Faraday Future. He was added to a national blacklist of debt defaulters by Chinese courts last month over hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid loans.
"I have entrusted (wife) Ms. Gan Wei and (brother) Mr. Jia Yuemin with full power to exercise my rights as the public company shareholder and fulfil my shareholder responsibilities," Jia wrote in the letter published on the Twitter-like Weibo platform. He said Gan and Jia Yuemin would deal with the debt issues of Leshi Internet, LeEco's main publicly traded arm. Separately on her own Weibo account, Gan said she would be meeting creditors to "resolve the debt problems". The 33-year-old Gan, an actress and producer on several feature films, said her husband owed 6.9 billion yuan ($1 billion) on loans connected to pledged shares. He has paid 1.7 billion yuan ($267 million) in interest on related loans since 2014, she wrote yesterday. Leshi Internet's filings show that nearly all of Jia's shares were pledged to back loans, though a Beijing court said last month that it had seized more than one billion shares - Jia's entire holding - of Leshi Internet to repay creditors. The court also seized Jia's two homes in Beijing and $200,000 from a bank account. Investment firms have already marked down their holdings. If the company were to delist completely, it could be one of the largest failures of a Chinese publicly traded company - possibly wiping out the investments of its 185,000 shareholders.