Milken Conference: Disney to Expand Shanghai Theme Park

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Bob Iger

UPDATED: CEO Bob Iger made the announcement Monday.

Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company and its partner in China are putting an additional $800 million into Shanghai Disney Resort while it's still under construction, for a total investment of $5.5 billion.

Iger made the announcement at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles on Monday.

The $800 million will be shared by Shanghai Shendi Group, which will own 57 percent of the resort while Disney holds the other 43 percent.

The partners intend on opening the park late next year, and it will be Disney's first park in mainland China. It opened Hong Kong Disneyland in the Greater China Region nine years ago.

He said Shanghai Disney Resort will include rides, hotels, dining, retail and "entertainment."

"As we speak, there are roughly 8,000 construction workers not only working on the property, but living on the property, to build a quintessential Disney experience in the largest city in the largest country," Iger said.

He added that "it's probable that that project represents the largest foreign investment in China today."

During Monday's presentation, Iger raved about the opportunity in China, a country he says is adding about 18 movie theaters every day and will become the No. 1 market for films by 2020.

Iger said the China government has become "more of a willing partner" over the years, and he praised a decision to build a high-speed rail that put 300 million people in reach of the upcoming resort.

"It is a land of great opportunity and great challenges," Iger said.

He acknowledged government censors who hamper Disney's business in some respects, but also said the company's brand and quality of entertainment is appreciated by Chinese consumers and even the country's political bureaucrats, as are the jobs that Disney creates.

"I'm not being an apologist," said Iger. "We need China to create growth in order to create growth for our company ... It should be a top priority."

Iger was speaking during a panel discussion called, China In Transition: Still a Land of Opportunity?" Also on the panel were former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Sheryl WuDann, author of China Wakes and co-founder of FullSky Capital.