Li Lu was born and grew up in Tangshan, China. He was a survivor of 1976 Tangshan earthquake. In 1985, he went to Nanjing University, majored in Physics but later transferred to Economics. In 1989, he participated in the Tiananmen Square student protests and became one of the student leaders. He helped organize the students and participated in a hunger strike. He fled the PRC through Operation Yellowbird.
After the crackdown on the movement, he left China and went to study at Columbia University. In 1990, he published a book about his experience in China titled Moving the Mountain: My Life in China (ISBN 0-399-13545-6). The book was the basis of a 1994 feature-film documentary, Moving the Mountain, produced by Trudie Styler and directed by Michael Apted, which probed the origins of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square and the consequences of the movement in the lives of several of the movement's student leaders.
“[Students] are now fighting with the courage that defies death for a life that’s worth living. My Slogan is ‘We have to fight, but we have to marry too.’”
A marriage ceremony was held between Li Lu and his girlfriend, Zhao Ming, at the Heroes’ Monument on May 22. It was a symbolic marriage that did not offer wedding sweets and wine, but bread and salt water. Zhang Boli prepared a marriage certificate and embossed it with the stamp of the hunger strike headquarters, making it “absolutely official.” It was also Chai Ling’s and Feng Congde’s first wedding anniversary.
Students gathered at the wedding to congratulate the married couple and sang the “Wedding March,” which gradually turned into “The Internationale.” In the documentary “Moving the Mountain,” Li is shown to peck Chai on the cheek during his marriage ceremony. The peck and ceremony were emblematic, as they sought to remove traditional restrictions on courtship practices and celebrate love as liberating. Many who attended the wedding found the joyous moment to be a symbol of hope and happiness. Their marriage was seen as a light backdrop to the movement; Li referred to it as “marriage on the execution ground.” Toward the end of his memoir, Moving the Mountain, Li does not mention his married life after the crackdown on June 4. There have since been no reports on Zhao Ming.
Li graduated from Columbia University receiving three degrees simultaneously: a B.A. in Economics, a M.B.A. and a J.D. in 1996.
Li was inspired to get into banking after hearing Warren Buffett, a Columbia alumnus, give a lecture at Columbia in 1993. Upon graduation, Li Lu worked in an investment bank until late 1997, when he founded Himalaya Capital Management, known for its disciplined and value-oriented approach to investing. From 1998 to 2004, he managed both a hedge fund and a venture capital fund. His fund suffered a 19% percent loss in 1998 from the Asian Financial Crisis. In late 2004, he transformed the hedge fund into a long-only investment vehicle, LL Investment Partners, LP, which is currently focused on global investment opportunities.
Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a long-time partner of the legendary investor Warren Buffett, is one of the investors of his fund, and a “mentor and good friend” (in Li Lu’s own words). Li Lu has been known as the man who introduced the Chinese battery and auto maker BYD Company to Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett. He is an informal advisor to BYD. His LL Investment Partners owns about 2.5% of BYD.
Since 1998 the firm has had a "phenomenal" record, with compound returns of around 30% per year during a period of general stagnation in the market.
Li Lu's investing mantra is "accurate and complete information," including understanding the character of a CEO by visiting his local church and speaking to his neighbors. The firm at one point managed the money of Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's partner.
Himalaya has made high-profile investments in Aereo among other firms.
Li was rumored to be the front runner to manage a large portion of Berkshire Hathaway's investment portfolio once Warren Buffett steps down. According to The Wall Street Journal, Charlie Munger once said "it is a foregone decision" that Li Lu would be going to be a member of Berkshire's top investors team after Warren Buffett retires. This was also hinted several times in some conversations with Buffett.
In May 2010, Li Lu helped to translate and publish the Chinese version of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger (ISBN 978-7-208-08994-5) in China and wrote a foreword for the book.
Li was named a global leader for tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 2001, and a Henry Crown fellow by the Aspen Institute in 1998. He serves on the board of directors for Knovel, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Young Presidents' Organization. He started serving on the board of trustees for Columbia University since 2017. He is featured in the Family of Voices, a part of the ongoing twenty-year Exhibition, starting in 2017, “Many Voices, One Nation” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.Moving the Mountain: My Life in China (ISBN 0-399-13545-6)