RISING STAR: Vision Knight's Wei Builds on Operational Experience

By Sonja Cheung | DOWJONES

David Wei gave up on a potential career as a diplomat, working his way through finance and operations jobs to become chief executive of e-commerce company Ltd., giving him an unusual pedigree in the competitive world of Chinese private equity.

His firm, Vision Knight Capital Partners, closed its $250 million maiden fund in March, with backers including Jack Ma, one of China's richest men. Mr. Wei is already thinking about a second fund and expects to bring it to market in 2014.

China has become difficult territory for private equity, with its profusion of investors and exit opportunities limited by a largely dormant market for initial public offerings. Vision Knight's performance has yet to be established as the firm remains invested in the six portfolio companies it has backed thus far, though it has plans to take one public. Yet Mr. Wei's background has proven a draw. In addition to Mr. Ma, Vision Knight counts Hong Kong-based telecommunications company PCCW Ltd . as a limited partner, and his firm invested in marketing company Allyes, alongside U.S. firm Silver Lake.

"David's management experience is a unique combination of local savvy and international expertise, a true differentiator in mainland China," said Eric Chen, a managing director at Silver Lake.

Unlike many aspiring executives, Mr. Wei skipped the usual route of completing an M.B.A. degree, having earlier attended the Shanghai Foreign Language University to study foreign affairs management with an eye toward becoming a diplomat. He graduated in 1993, but changed his mind about a career in diplomacy. He also completed a corporate finance course at the London Business School.

One of his early jobs was at Coopers & Lybrand, which in 1998 merged with Price Waterhouse to form PricewaterhouseCoopers . He took the position after realizing he lacked experience in corporate accounting, before moving on to do-it-yourself retailer B&Q China to learn about retail operations. There, he worked up the ranks to chief financial officer, and then chief executive. "Most people look at their careers in terms of profit and loss, focusing on salary increases, but I look at it as a balance sheet - reducing your liabilities and improving your assets," Mr. Wei said.

In 2006, he joined , where he spearheaded the company's public listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2007. His expertise from that undertaking is being used to help one of Vision Knight's portfolio companies, 91Wireless, go public in Hong Kong, the firm's first exit via an IPO.

Mr. Wei resigned from in February 2011 following a fraud scandal in which employees allegedly colluded with sellers to create fake listings on the site. The company said Mr. Wei wasn't involved in the fraud, and he remains a shareholder in the company.

In the same year, Mr. Wei founded Shanghai-based Vision Knight, targeting retail, Internet and e-commerce transactions. His fellow founder is Daming Zhu, who previously worked at DT Capital Partners . Shanghai-based DT Capital oversees $500 million and 2.5 billion yuan under management, and has in its portfolio automotive company China Grand Automobile Service and snack retailer Laiyifen, among others.

Mr. Wei is likely keeping a close eye on China's largest buyout deal, the take-private deal for Nasdaq-listed advertising company Focus Media Holding Ltd ., which is being bought for about $3.7 billion by a consortium including Carlyle Group and FountainVest Partners . Mr. Wei sits on the board of Allyes, a former subsidiary of Focus Media.


David Wei Career Track

- 2011 to present: Vision Knight Capital , founding partner and chairman

- 2006 to 2011: Ltd., chief executive

- 2000 to 2006: B&Q China, chief executive and chief financial officer

Other positions include:

- Orient Securities, investment banking division general manager

- Coopers & Lybrand, corporate finance division manager