China's Wanda in Early Talks to Pay $1 Billion for Dick Clark Productions

Golden Globe Statuettes GETTY - H 2016
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

A purchase of the producer of the Golden Globes would mark an expansion of Wanda's stated plan to enter the U.S. entertainment market in a big way.

Last month, China's richest man went public with his goal of sealing at least two $1 billion deals for Hollywood companies this year. Looks like he wasn't kidding.

Dalian Wanda Group, run by the outspoken Wang Jianlin, has held preliminary talks to purchase Dick Clark Productions, the prolific company behind the Golden Globe Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and other live television events, according to sources. The price for DCP is said to value the company in the "neighborhood" of $1 billion.

Sources say Wanda has held talks in recent weeks about DCP, which produces So You Think You Can Dance in addition to its stable of awards shows, though the talks are said to be in the early stages and due diligence on the company's assets has begun. DCP is part of a group of entertainment assets controlled by Eldridge Industries, the investment vehicle of former Guggenheim Partners executive and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. (The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard media brands also are part of those assets, but would not be part of a Dick Clark deal, according to sources.)

"Dick Clark Productions and Beijing Wanda Culture Industry Group Co., Ltd., have agreed to enter into exclusive talks with the shared goal of finalizing a mutually satisfactory transaction," a spokesperson for Eldridge Industries tells THR. "DCP is controlled by Eldridge Industries, which announced last month that it was conducting a strategic review of its media holdings."

A rep for Wanda declined to comment.

Guggenheim and others purchased Dick Clark for about $370 million in 2012 amid increased demand for television content, especially live events, which are perceived as more "DVR proof" and thus appealing to advertisers. Many of the Guggenheim entertainment properties were spun off last year with Eldridge, which has been working with investment banks Moelis & Co. and Goldman Sachs to gauge interest in Dick Clark.

If Wanda seals a deal for the company, it will mark a major escalation for a firm that is aggressively pursuing Hollywood assets. Earlier this year, Wanda paid a reported $3.5 billion to acquire Legendary Entertainment, Thomas Tull's studio behind Pacific Rim, Warcraft and the upcoming The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon. Wanda, which began as a real estate development company in China, already owns the AMC Entertainment theater chain in the U.S. and other chains around the world. It also inked a major partnership with Sony Pictures last week.

"My goal is to buy Hollywood companies and bring their technology and capability to China," Wang said in a recent interview with Reuters outlining his strategy. "We are interested not only in Paramount, but all of them. If one of the Big Six would be willing to be sold to us, we would be interested," Wang added. The Paramount deal was then taken off the table by Viacom's newly installed board.

A Wanda deal would be the second sale in a decade for Dick Clark, which was launched in 1957 by the legendary broadcaster and American Bandstand host, who died in 2012. (It is currently run by CEO Allen Shapiro.) In 2007, RedZone Capital Management, a private equity group funded by Daniel Snyder, paid $175 million for the company. Guggenheim partnered with Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment and others to buy it in 2012.

Updated with statement from Eldridge representative.