To the 35-year-old Jason Li, leading one of Asia’s most prominent film and entertainment companies can be stressful. The pressure, however, comes not just from building a bigger business, but also keeping his father’s legacy alive.
“My father founded the company when he was only 24,” Li says, referring to Li Kuo-hsing, the founder and chairman of Mei Ah Entertainment Group. “It was an amazing achievement. That’s why we are under a lot of pressure and we have to work harder.”
Thirty-five years since Li Kuo-hsing founded Mei Ah, the Hong Kong-based company has grown from video rental and distribution to a full-fledged, well-rounded entertainment company. The company’s leadership has also been taken up by the second generation — Jason Li, the eldest son, is at the helm as Mei Ah’s executive director, and his younger brother James, 29, is the company’s business development manager.
“Father still makes the final decisions for projects with big investments,” Jason Li says. “But he lets us handle a lot of project pre-productions.”
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Jason Li joined Mei Ah in 2008 after completing his business studies in Australia. He recalled that he was still exploring his future at the time, but the opportunity to join his father’s company allowed him to rekindle his childhood passion not only for films, but also for creative content as a whole.
“My father is my connection with filmmaking. When we were young, we spent a lot of time at our father’s office,” Jason Li says. “Creative content allows room for imagination. You live in the reality, but inside these films and shows you can live in a completely imaginative world. It’s very special to me.”
Li’s father came from a humble background: the Fujian-born Li Kuo-hsing moved to Hong Kong in the 1970s when he was just 19. Penniless, he joined a relative in Hong Kong to start a business in selling video tapes. In just a few years, the business grew so rapidly that he opened his first video rental store in 1984. In the 1980s, he began exploring the film distribution business. A decade later he saw the opportunity to expand the business into mainland China. The rest was history.
Now the father-and-sons team pledges to take Mei Ah further, establishing its own ecology of the entertainment industry from talent management to content production and distribution.
Jason Li says although they might hold different views, they always strive to understand each other and find a common ground.
“It is normal that we have different views, especially [because] we come from different generations. We are very rational and we don’t bring work to the family dinner table,” he says.
“My father is great. He talks to a lot of directors and scriptwriters, especially the young ones. He is willing to listen and he is very open-minded.
“What I have learned is that I have to listen, and read a lot,” he continues. “As a leader, the worst thing you can do is to be stubborn and just do things your own way. Take advice from people around you, and learn to pace yourself before making decisions. It’s all about communications and reasoning.”