China connection

Mainland firms take majority in CETV

HONG KONG — Five mainland Chinese companies have taken an 80% stake in Robert Chua’s China Entertainment Television Broadcast (CETV).

Chua, who founded the “no sex, no violence, no news” Mandarin-language channel in March 1995, now finds himself as one of three vice chairmen. He and his wife, Peggy, will continue to hold 20% of the money-losing company.

“It’s a heavenly marriage,” Chua told Daily Variety. “Now it’s 100% Chinese and we have the same vision. I’ve got the right partners. I see a brighter future.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Financial details have not been made public.

In late 1995, Chua sold a $30 million stake to Intl. Family Entertainment (then under Pat Robertson), the Indonesian Lippo Group and a Malaysian company. In February of this year, those partners bowed out.

His latest partners include Yang Weiguang, the chairman of the Chinese TV Artists Assn. and China’s vice minister of television and radio. In addition to the association, the other investors are Beijing Mega Fortune Investment, China Asia-TV Arts Center, Chinacomm Intl. and Asia Pacific Xinhua Investment. The latter is not connected with Xinhua, the official state news agency.

Chua downplayed the effect of having a high-level government official on the restructured board. As it stands now, CETV is not permitted to send its satellite signal to the major urban areas.

Chua said that CETV remains a Hong Kong company and therefore will still not be allowed to broadcast throughout China, at least for now.

One thing that will change right away is that news will be added to the mix. The network will be allowed to rebroadcast the state-sanctioned CCTV news each evening.

“The ownership group is committed to fostering the spirit of Chinese teachings and to promoting the history and culture of China,” the company said in a statement.

Chua said he is optimistic that ad sales, which have never met his expectations, will pick up. “I imagine they will improve, that’s our anticipation.”

Chua said he was not bothered at the thought of relinquishing the chairman’s job to Sun Ji Hui, the general manager of Beijing Mega Fortune. Chua said he will still be responsible for day-to-day operations and programming and that Canadian Gerry Tymon will retain his position as chief operating officer.

“For anyone else I wouldn’t do it, but I have total confidence in this group,” Chua added. “I will still remain very active. But I have great respect for my partners, who know more about China and the market.”

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