Wanda Chairman Warns Donald Trump About Blocking Chinese Investment in U.S.
Facing calls for greater scrutiny of his acquisitions, Wang Jianlin said actions to curb Chinese investment could jeopardize the jobs of 20,000 Americans.
China's richest man has asked Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Associate of America, to deliver a message to President-elect Donald Trump.
Wang Jianlin, the billionaire chairman of Chinese real estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, says he told the MPAA chief on Friday that any move by Trump to curb Chinese investment in the U.S. could jeopardize the jobs of Wanda's 20,000 American employees.
"I met the president of the MPAA yesterday and he said he would like to meet Mr. Trump and asked me what I wanted to tell him," Wang said Saturday during a forum in Beijing. "I told him that I've invested over $10 billion in the U.S., employing over 20,000 people. If something goes wrong, these 20,000-plus people might be out of jobs."
He also noted how Hollywood companies have begun to depend on China — the world's No. 2 film market — as a key revenue driver.
"Other things aside, in the film and entertainment industry, you have to understand that English-language films are relying on the Chinese market for growth," said Wang.
Over the past few years, Wang's Wanda, which got its start in real estate development, has emerged as China's most aggressive investor in the U.S. media sector. The company bought U.S. theater chain AMC entertainment for $2.6 billion in 2012, and it has a pending deal to merge AMC with Carmike Cinemas, creating North American's largest cinema circuit. In January, the conglomerate paid a reported $3.5 billion to acquire Legendary Entertainment, the Burbank-based studio behind Pacific Rim and the upcoming The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon. Following a major partnership with Sony Pictures, Wang told The Hollywood Reporter in November that he planned to invest in all six of the big U.S. studios. Wanda also has a pending $1 billion deal to buy Dick Clark Productions, producers of the Golden Globes and other glitzy Hollywood awards shows.
This acquisition blitz has begun to unnerve some U.S. lawmakers. In September, 16 members of the House of Representatives wrote a joint letter asking the U.S. Government Accountability Office to consider creating more scrutiny of Chinese acquisitions of domestic entertainment companies. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lent Democratic support to the issue earlier this month, penning his own letter to the U.S. Treasury Secretary and president-elect Trump, arguing that such buyouts should be examined more closely. He also lamented the fact that China bars U.S. firms from making equivalent media buys within its own borders. Both letters mentioned Wanda by name.
Wang was asked about the backlash on Saturday, during a Q&A session following his speech in Beijing.
"This proves two things," he said, according to a transcript. "First, it shows that we have some influence in the United States, otherwise [the lawmakers] would not have named us."
Second, Wang said the U.S. Congress is a place of free speech, where lawmakers often make suggestions that don't reflect the whole of U.S. policy intent.
"So, we will wait and watch for Mr. Trump's attitude toward Chinese entertainment companies once he takes office," he added.