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Alibaba is in a hurry to make itself a dominant force in the Chinese entertainment industry, investing significant sums on production studios and recently announcing a content deal with Lionsgate. Now, Jack Ma‘s e-commerce giant has hired the second-most powerful man in the Chinese film industry to run its fledgling Alibaba Pictures Group.
Zhang Qiang, the vice president of China Film Group, has, according to sources close to the situation, accepted the role of heading up the new upstart studio, says the Wall Street Journal. Zhang had denied such rumors earlier in the week, but the hire seems to be an open secret in the Chinese film industry, according to the Journal.
If true, Zhang would be leaving the China Film Group, the state-run body that distributes the majority of films in China. Zhang has been the face of the subsidiary China Film Co. and was a key figure in a co-production deal struck with Paramount to create a 3D film about Marco Polo, as well as signing off on a significant equity investment in two projects at Legendary Entertainment.
Zhang also made headlines last year at the Cannes Film Festival, when all his luggage was stolen from his rented Cote d’Azur apartment.
With a U.S. listing on the horizon, Alibaba has been on buying frenzy in recent months, with the focus very much on its entertainment arm. Alibaba paid $800 million for television and film production company ChinaVision Media Group and renamed it Alibaba Pictures Group. Just last week Alibaba announced a content streaming deal with Lionsgate that will be exclusive to Alibaba’s entertainment platform. In recent days, Alibaba announced plans to take a stake in Chinese video site Youku. Previously, Alibaba had forged closer links with Wasu Digital Media Group to create set top boxes, digital content and Internet TV.
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