Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting is coming to America. The CEO of LeTV has turned the Chinese video entertainment company into a $15 billion corporation. Now Jia is linked to Faraday Future, a California electric vehicle startup that's expected to unveil something big Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Few details are known about Faraday Future, other than that it's a brand-new car company that's expected to take on high-end automakers like Tesla. Forecasters predict Faraday Future is at work on an electric car that will come with standard autonomous driving technology. It is clear, though, based on documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, that the company is run day to day by Chaoying Deng, the woman who runs a LeTV affiliate in the U.S. and calls Jia her boss.
“They told us right off that this is China's response to Tesla,” one vendor who was working with Faraday Future told the Times.
The company has also hired top executives away from BMW, General Motors and Tesla, among other companies. Faraday Future could become serious competition for each of those companies if Jia's past is any indication.
Forbes ranked Jia the 17th-richest person in China in 2015, and by Jan. 4, 2016, his estimated worth was $7.8 billion. Almost none of that includes revenue from electric vehicles made in the U.S. but is the result of Leshi Internet Information and Technology, better known as LeTV.
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LeTV has become one of the largest and most influential online video providers in China since Jia founded it in 2004. The company's 5,000 employees work on everything from Internet TV, video games and e-commerce to four smartphones launched under the LeTV brand. When it comes to Western companies LeTV is most like Netflix, only if Netflix offered far more original programs, sports channels that give users the ability to select their own camera angles, 3-D and 4K content, and other perks.
Now LeTV is expanding into India, meaning the world's two largest populations will have access to LeTV starting Jan. 5.
"Most people in India probably haven't heard of LeTV yet, but indications are that LeTV would soon build up a presence here to tap into one of the fastest-growing markets for smartphones and other smart devices, with plans to start selling its streaming service and devices," the company said in a statement last month.
Next, the challenge will be to make money on traditionally slow-selling electric cars, while also catching up with the competition.
“We plan to revolutionize the automobile industry by creating an integrated, intelligent mobility system that protects the earth and improves the living environment of mankind so that everyone can breathe clean air and enjoy a seamlessly connected lifestyle,” Xia wrote in a message to U.S. state legislators last month.