Business / latest news

China's richest man eyes film deals, acquiring a Hollywood studio

By AGENCIES ( Updated: 2016-08-24 00:03

China's richest man eyes film deals, acquiring a Hollywood studio

Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Wanda Group, attends a signing ceremony for the strategic partnership between FIBA and Wanda Group in Beijing, China June 16, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group Co, said he expects to close two billion-dollar film-related deals in the United States this year, and then will seek to buy one of Hollywood's "Big Six" movie studios.

"My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China," Jianlin, China's richest man, told Reuters in an interview.

Wang declined to elaborate on the acquisition of two non-production film companies — each worth more than $1 billion.

In January, Wang paid $3.5 billion to buy a controlling stake in US film studio Legendary Entertainment, behind hits such as Jurassic World, making Wanda the first Chinese firm to own a major Hollywood studio.

Dalian Wanda, which was added to the Fortune Global 500 list this year, aims to triple revenue from its cultural division, led by entertainment, sports and tourism, to $22.6 billion by 2020.

Reuters reported last month that Wanda has held talks with Viacom Inc about acquiring its stake in Paramount Pictures, one of Hollywood's "Big Six" studios that also include Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, Universal Pictures and Columbia.

"We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them. If one of the Big Six would be willing to be sold to us, we would be interested," Wang said in the interview published on Tuesday. "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."

Dalian Wanda is leading Chinese firms that are investing in Hollywood. They include Fosun International, which has invested in Studio 8, a production company started by former Warner Brothers executive Jeff Robinov, and Huayi Brothers Media Corp, which is producing films with STX Entertainment, a studio invested in by Chinese private equity company Hony Capital.

Dalian Wanda would also start co-investing in global blockbusters next year, Wang added.

The Chinese conglomerate, which began as a property developer in the northeastern city of Dalian, is also looking to extend the world's biggest motion picture theater network, Wang said.

Following the completion of its acquisitions of London-based Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and Carmike Cinemas Inc in the US, Dalian Wanda would control 15 percent of global box office revenues, Wang said, and may reach its goal of controlling 20 percent earlier than its target of 2020.

Wang, who has also bought Swiss sports marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG and World Triathlon Corp, owner of the "Ironman" franchise, said he was primarily interested in acquiring entertainment and sports companies in the US and Europe.

"If the target company fits our appetite, there is no upper limit for budgeting," he said.

But he cautioned that too many investors were rushing into the "hot" film market.

"Most of the money invested in China, and even the global film industry, is silly money. Only a little is smart money," he said.

"As China's film industry growth slows to below 20 percent, or even 10 percent, 8 percent this year, some will be washed out. It's like Warren Buffett said, 'You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out'."

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks