How 'northern king' built his empire

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Dalian Wanda's boss Wang Jianlin is known as one of the two kings among the mainland's private property developers.

He is called the northern king, as his property empire is based in the northeastern province of Liaoning, while Wang Shi, the chief of Shenzhen's Vanke, the country's top developer by sales, is the southern king.

Both men, whose shared surname means 'king' in Chinese, were born into military families and started their careers in the armed forces. Wang Jianlin, 57, a native of Sichuan province, built a 17-year career in the military before becoming the director of the general office of the Xigang district government in Dalian city when Beijing ordered a downsizing of the military in 1987.

His breakthrough came a year later, when he volunteered to become the boss of Xigang Residential Development, a state firm teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. In 1992, Wang (pictured) took advantage of the government's experimentation with the privatisation of state assets and turned it into his flagship, Dalian Wanda.

His personal wealth was estimated by Forbes magazine earlier this year at US$4 billion, ranking him as the 276th-richest person in the world. Owing to Beijing's efforts to clamp down on property speculation and bring down prices to make them affordable to the middle class, his net worth shrank from US$4.6 billion last year. He was still the mainland's 15th-wealthiest person last year.

Wang has earned a reputation as a philanthropist and is an one of 13 honorary chairmen of the China Charity Federation.

One of the country's best known entrepreneurs, he is one of 23 deputy chairmen of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, which represents private firms. He is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Since 1992, Wanda has grown into a conglomerate with pretax profit of 2.1 billion yuan (HK$2.6 billion) last year on sales of 20.6 billion yuan.

At year end, it had invested in 87 commercial property projects and completed 49. It also operates 26 hotels ranked five-star or above.

The group, one of the mainland's largest movie producers, also runs 86 cinemas, with a total of 730 screens, and operates 40 department stores.

In March, Wang told the People's Daily online that private filmmakers face a 'glass ceiling' in getting loans to expand their business and although they made most of the mainland movies, they could not get licences to import and export movies.