April 15, 2024
Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who is chasing Hollywood, is ready to sell the last piece of Wanda film

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who previously sought to buy a controlling position in Hollywood, is preparing to complete his imminent exit from the film industry. The distressed group is facing pressure to repay its debt.

Wanda Film, which remains China’s largest cinema operator, said in a regulatory filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on Wednesday that Wang and his Wanda Investment vehicle are expected to sell their remaining stake in the company of 51% to China Rui Holdings.

Ruyi, which operates film, TV and online games, counts games, social media and streaming giant Tencent among its largest shareholders. Hong Kong-listed Ruyi earlier in July bought 49% of Wanda Investment for $320 million (RMB2.3 billion).

Rui has not commented on the pending deal. The Wanda Film filing called for a two-day suspension of its shares and said, “If the above matters are ultimately implemented, it will result in a change of control of the company.”

Wang, a former military officer turned property developer, became one of China’s richest people thanks to his chain of upscale shopping malls and luxury hotels. Once worth an estimated $46 billion, Wang was known for his punctuality as well as lavish luxury. He sometimes traveled with two private jets – one for himself and one for his luggage.

In 2012, he burst onto the world entertainment stage with his $2.6 billion acquisition of American cinema chain AMC. He then purchased: the Carmike Theater in America; Hoyts, Australian cinema operator; Hollywood production firm Legendary Pictures; Powerful sports rights agency Infront and a stake in the Atlético Madrid football team.

Wang and Wanda also built theme parks and threatened to drive Disney out of China when the Mouse House opened the Shanghai Disneyland theme park in 2016.

Wanda purchased a prime Beverly Hills lot that was the site of a Robinsons-May department store and after a long campaign won development approval for a $1.2 billion hotel, apartment and office complex. Wang proposed that it would be the group’s global film headquarters.

Wang and his lieutenant Jack Gao are understood to have sought to buy stakes in several Hollywood conglomerates. Wang expressed ambitions to reshape the global film distribution system by combining ownership of Hollywood studios with control of the world’s largest cinema distribution chain.

But, when the Chinese government intervened in mid-2017 to prevent banks from lending money to the already heavily indebted company for the purchase of Wanda’s overseas assets, it marked the end of China, Chinese cash and its megalomaniacal tycoons. Signaling the end of Hollywood’s love affair with.

Soon after, Wanda began selling some of her assets. First there were the theme parks that failed to impress Disney and several hotels. He later closed the Movie Metropolis film studio, festival center, yacht-marina and residential complex in the coastal city of Chengdu, which he had launched with a parade of Western stars in 2013 and finally opened in 2018.

Chinese asset sales did not appear to be sufficient and despite selling some overseas assets, Wanda has since been on the sick list. The company exited AMC piecemeal, selling off the undeveloped Beverly Hills site and reducing its stake in Legendary. It has put Hoyts on the auction block but has not completed the sale.

Wanda may have been one of the first property developers in China to become heavily indebted at a time when the Chinese economy was booming and the price of everything seemed to only go up. But he is not alone, with big property developers including Evergrande and Country Garden also in deep trouble and putting a huge strain on China’s post-Covid economic recovery.

Bloomberg estimates Wang’s net worth has fallen to about $6 billion.

Source: variety.com

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