Long March to Hollywood: China's richest man in step with Beijing

Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:35am EST
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By Matthew Miller

BEIJING (Reuters) - Flanked by models in white sequin dresses, amid booming music and dazzling lights, China's richest man savored his latest entertainment triumph this week, the announcement of a $3.5 billion deal to take over a Hollywood blockbuster movie studio.

Acquiring Legendary Entertainment puts Wang Jianlin and his conglomerate, the Dalian Wanda Group, a step closer to the ultimate goal: a movie empire underpinning a globally recognized, household name to rival Google, Apple or Microsoft.

Under President Xi Jinping, China is broadening its use of so-called soft power, and - through skycrapers, soccer and movies - Wang, a former People's Liberation Army officer, is on the front line.

"It's entirely possible in the future that we'll hold an even bigger ceremony, to announce we bought an even bigger entertainment group," Wang told reporters this week.

Wang's rise to prominence has required a mix of political nous and commercial savvy.

The son of a Long March veteran, he started his business life in the northeastern city of Dalian, where his company grew to become the country's largest property developer.

Wanda also is the world's biggest commercial properties developer, with a Hong Kong listed company that controls 125 commercial shopping malls, along with 81 hotels. The group reported total revenue increased 19 percent last year to $44 billion.

"Remain close to government, and away from politics," Wang, 61, told Reuters News in a 2014 interview. Deal with the authorities, he said, referring to the Communist Party and the government, "less with individuals".   Continued...

Wang Jianlin (L), chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, and Atletico Madrid's President Enrique Cerezo arrive for a signing ceremony in Beijing, in this January 21, 2015 file photo.   REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files