China’s powerhouse Dalian Wanda group is to bring its disparate movie assets together in a new film holding company.
The unit is headed by Jack Gao, a former Microsoft executive who also spent time at News Corp. and sat on the board of directors at Bona Film Group, when News Corp. was a strategic investor in Bona. Gao has for the past several months been an investment advisor (Group VP and CEO of International Investments & Business Development) within Wanda.
Wanda Film Holding will include separately-listed Wanda Cinema Line (quoted on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange), AMC Entertainment (listed on the NYSE), as well as unlisted Chinese production and distribution business Wanda Media, the privately held Wanda Qingdao Studios complex which is due to open in April 2017, and Hoyts, the Australian cinema chain and distribution company that Wanda acquired earlier this year in a US$600 million deal.
Gao was a key Wanda negotiator in the Chinese giant’s recent $650 million acquisition of the Ironman contest organizer World Triathlon Corporation. WTC and the earlier acquisitions of sports marketing company Infront and a stake in Atletico Madrid will instead be grouped together under a new sport division.
Wanda, which has recently attracted controversy over its connections to the family of President Xi Jinping, has rapidly diversified from property development into entertainment and tourism. It is also set to take on China’s established Internet giants, by expanding its own e-commerce and Internet businesses.