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Trading in shares of Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group — the primary financier of Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8 venture — have been suspended after its billionaire chairman, Guo Guangcheng, mysteriously vanished.
Fosun staff told Caixin, an influential Chinese business magazine, that they lost contact with Guo on Thursday. Additional press outlets from Hong Kong and China have reported that Guo has suddenly become unreachable, leading to speculation that he was picked up by the Chinese authorities on corruption charges. Other unconfirmed reports allege that Guo was grabbed by police at Shanghai’s international airport and led away in handcuffs after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.
The situation escalated on Friday, when Fosun International (00656.HK) and Fosun Pharma (02196.HK), Fosun Group’s two largest listed subsidiaries, both suspended trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Fosun Group has yet to issue an official statement on the matter.
Guo is China’s 17th richest man with a net worth of $5.6 billion, according to Bloomberg. He has led his company on an international buying spree over the past year, racking up 16 deals worth a combined $4.5 billion by Bloomberg’s count.
Entertainment has been a principle focus of Fosun International’s global expansion. Besides bankrolling Robinov’s Studio 8 venture at Sony, the group has stakes in China’s Bona Film Group, Canada’s Cirque du Soleil, Korean talent management firm SM Entertainment and Chinese advertising company Focus Media.
The company was founded in 1992 in Shanghai. It is also involved in insurance, industrial operations, investment and asset management.
Corruption investigation rumors have been swirling around Guo since at least 2013. Earlier this year, a Shanghai court linked Guo to Wang Zongnan, the former head of state-owned company Bright Food Group. Wang was sentenced to 18 years in prison for embezzlement and bribery. The court stated that Fosun sold luxury properties to Wang and his family members at a steep discount, and that “Wang took advantage of his position and delivered benefits to Fosun.”
The court proceedings were carried by state news agency Xinhua — an ominous sign for Guo. Fosun refuted the court’s conclusions and Guo has repeatedly denied any implication in an ongoing corruption case.
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