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From Bricks to Flix: How China Property Mogul Plans to Run Hollywood

From Bricks to Flix: How China Property Mogul Plans to Run Hollywood.

By Jeff Vasishta August 25, 2016
Photo courtesy of Forbes.com

Wang Jianlin is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking about blockbuster Hollywood films. In fact, in the US it may not yet be a name that comes to mind at all. But China’s richest man, ($33.3 billion and counting) and his company, Dalian Wanda Group, might be names you should know. After starting off as a property developer, Wang Jianlin may soon not only own the theaters where you watch Hollywood’s best, but also the studio that makes them.

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Dalian Wanda Group expects to seal two 1 billion-dollar film deals in the United States this year, Chairman Wang Jianlin said on Tuesday. After completing the acquisition of two film companies—each worth over $1 billion—Dalian Wanda’s next target would be a so-called “Big Six” movie studio, the mogul told Reuters.

Jianlin’s rise and aggressive expansion, after humble beginnings, is like a Hollywood rags-to-riches tales itself. After sixteen years in the People’s Liberation Army, Wang started working as the Office Administrator for the Xigang District in the city of Dalian. He took over a local construction firm 28 years ago and borrowed 1 million yuan to start building. Today his company owns 21.57 million square meters of investment property, 134 Wanda Shopping Plazas, 82 luxury hotels, 213 cinemas, 99 department stores and 54 karaoke centers around China. But who’s counting?

Americans will be more interested in the Wanda Group’s designs on Hollywood. He’s already had talks with Viacom about acquiring its stake in Paramount.

“My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China. We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them. If one of the Big Six would be willing to sell to us, we would be interested,” Wang told Reuters. “Only the six are real global film companies, while the rest are not. If we are to build a real movie empire, this is a necessary step.”

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In addition to his Hollywood dreams, Wanda has purchased Swiss sports and marketing firm Infront Sports, Media AG and World Triathlon Corp, owner of the “Ironman” franchise. In Europe he is the owner of top La Liga soccer team, Athletico Madrid.

“We are newcomers to this business, and there are no reference points,” Wang said of his US movie designs. “Wanda is absolutely on its own, so we’re making changes as we go along. This is the price of entry. We haven’t seen a big real estate company successfully transform into a services or culture enterprise.”

Because of Wanda’s diversification, Wang feels he has the leeway to stumble.

“If we buy one of the Big Six (movie studios) for $5 or $8 billion, and lose it all, Wanda wouldn’t go bankrupt,” he said candidly.

“Without boldness, there will be no success,” he said earlier.

Words we can all live by…if only someone could lend that first million.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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