Li Ruigang has been removed from his position as CEO of Shanghai Media Group, China’s second-biggest state-owned TV and media conglomerate, with no explanation given for the move, local media reported.
Li, who also helms giant state-backed private equity fund China Media Capital and is a major backer of DreamWorks Animation’s Asian venture Oriental DreamWorks, will be replaced by Wang Jianjun, now managing director of SMG, deputy chief secretary of the Communist Party and a former head of the Shanghai Information Office.
SMG also has a partnership with The Walt Disney Group on TV content development, film co-production, content distribution and marketing initiatives.
Li was chairman of SMG since October 2002 and has been active in the company since then, though he took a back seat in 2011 when he became deputy secretary general of the Communist Party in Shanghai. He returned to an executive role at SMG last year as the company started to expand.
In 2009, he founded CMC, a state-backed fund that invests in private media and entertainment assets and is partly funded by SMG. In 2013, CMC formed a strategic investment partnership with Time Warner, and it acquired the Star China assets from News Corp.
Li will stay on as chairman of the company, SMG said in a statement.
The South China Morning Post newspaper quoted a source saying Li had asked to be removed from the position as it allows him to concentrate on CMC. “He voluntarily requested the city authorities to remove him from the post of president … it paves the way for his complete departure from SMG in the near future,” the source said.
An SMG official told the paper: “He had a big vision and hoped to focus on CMC to achieve his goal of creating China’s own media empire … he understands the Chinese media sector well and is trusted by the people higher up. CMC appears to be a huge, ideal platform for him.”
In March, Shanghai Media Group merged with Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group, Radio and Television Shanghai to create the largest provincial media group in the country. It has more than $7 billion in assets.
SMG in November announced a massive restructuring plan that involved its Internet TV company, BesTV, a Chinese partner of Microsoft, merging with its Shanghai Oriental Pearl business to create a giant Internet and TV company.
SMG owns and operates 13 radio stations, 15 TV channels, 15 digital pay TV channels and eight publications.