When owning a huge cinema chain is not enough, why not buy the firm behind one of the film and television industry’s most high-profile awards as well?
China’s richest man has continued his Hollywood shopping spree – snapping up the company that runs the Golden Globes.
Dalian Wanda, run by property magnate Wang Jianlin, is paying $1bn (£800m) for Dick Clark Productions that also runs the Miss America beauty pageant and the Billboard Music Awards.
The Chinese conglomerate already controls the AMC cinema chain, the second largest in the US, as well as Legendary Entertainment , co-producer of hit films including Godzilla and The Dark Knight Rises, and has a tie-up with Sony Pictures.
It seems that Mr Wang, who sits on a personal fortune of $32.1bn (£26.4bn) according to a recent rich list, really is buying up the US entertainment industry, one step at a time.
Many suspect it is just a matter of time until he gets a big chunk of one of Hollywood’s big six film studios. Earlier this year he got close to buying a 49% stake in Paramount Pictures from Viacom before the deal collapsed.
Dalian Wanda said the purchase of Dick Clark Productions represented Wanda’s “first step” into television production.
But long before this deal, some US politicians were already worried about China’s influence in Hollywood and the US media – whether that is censoring media or producing pro-Chinese propaganda. In September, 16 members of the US Congress called for greater scrutiny of foreign investments, mentioning Dalian Wanda by name.
Mr Wang has not shied away from his ambition to make China a dominant global force in entertainment and to bring “more Chinese elements” to the output.
But he insists he is motivated by a “business perspective” rather than a political one, with China’s box office takings predicted to match the US and Canada by 2018 – and to grow by around 15% each year for the next decade.
“You cannot try to just make money in the Chinese market and disregard Chinese tastes,” Mr Wang said earlier this year.
But there is “soft power” at play here too – using businesses to wield cultural influence over the way China is portrayed.
Next year Legendary Entertainment, in partnership with Universal, will release Great Wall – starring Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe alongside big name Chinese actor Andy Lau and boy-band idol Wang Junkai,
And crucially, it will be the first major Hollywood film, aimed at a global audience, to be set, filmed and produced in China.
What else does Dalian Wanda own ?
- Founded in 1988, Wanda is probably best known as China’s biggest commercial real estate firm.
- Domestically, the group already has some 125 Wanda Plazas, 100 department stores and 80 hotels – with scores more under construction.
- Wanda’s expanding entertainment and tourism sector spans movie cinemas, theme parks and film production.
- The Wanda Xishuangbanna International Resort – which is more like an entire town – has a hospital, schools, luxury hotels, a shopping district and a theme park.
- Internationally, the Chinese giant has been on a buying spree – with a focus on investing in hotels and big foreign brands – including US cinema chain AMC and luxury British yachtmaker Sunseeker.
- Wanda was the first Chinese company to invest in a top European football club – Spain’s Atletico Madrid.