Chinese media mogul Li Ruigang outlines plan to restore Shaw Brothers’ lost glory

Li says the Hong Kong studio will make movies based on TVB intellectual property, leverage Hollywood resources

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 October, 2016, 10:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 October, 2016, 11:58pm

Chinese media mogul Li Ruigang’s first task after taking the helm at Shaw Brothers Holdings was to unveil a comprehensive strategy Thursday that seeks to restore the lost glory of Hong Kong’s iconic film company.

The 47-year old Li, often called China’s Rupert Murdoch, said that he expects to add more value to Shaw Brothers by using the label to make films adapted from popular TVB dramas. In addition, Shaw Brothers would also have access to his extensive Hollywood resources for possible cooperation, he said.

“Hong Kong has the world’s best legal and fundraising environment...I am very upbeat on the capital market here as well as the company’s prospects,” he said at an event attended by more than a hundred TVB artistes and local business heavyweights, including Yeung Sau-sing, the billionaire chairman of Emperor Group .

Li, who is also the vice-chairman of the city’s dominant broadcaster TVB, said Shaw Brothers would make films based on TVB’s intellectual properties like dramas, many of which have been household names with generations of Chinese on the mainland.

Shaw Brothers, founded by Hong Kong’s godfather of entertainment Sir Run Run Shaw and the region’s top studio for decades, is now nearly 30 per cent owned by Li’s multibillion dollar media arm CMC Holding, with TVB being the second largest shareholder.

“We expect to invest 1 billion yuan for making films during the next one year and have about eight new movies in the pipeline,”said Jiang Wei, executive director of Shaw Brothers and senior executive of CMC-owned film distributor Gravity Pictures.

“In the next three to five years, we will make Shaw Brothers a ‘first class’ industry player,” Li said.

Li, a former government official and boss of state-backed Shanghai Media Group, founded CMC in 2009. Since then he has seen it grow from strength to strength and acquire key stakes in a number of leading mainland news outlets such as Caixin Media.

His media empire later extended into the movie market after investments in the China unit of the world’s largest widescreen theatre operator Imax and partnerships with Hollywood studios like DreamWorks – the producer of blockbuster Kung Fu Panda movies, as well as Warner Brothers Entertainment.

Li said that Hong Kong professionals were “better positioned” to build ties between Chinese and Hollywood film makers. “There are fewer such talents on the mainland,” he said.

Shaw Brothers is also in talks with Stephen Chow, a film director whose science-fiction film The Mermaid released during the Lunar New Year ended as China’s highest-grossing film ever, to make movies.

Responding to queries on the box office slowdown in the mainland, Li said that the trend was a “normal market correction that would make industry players more rational and real”.

According to Li, demand for movies will continue to be robust among Chinese people, “especially in the third and fourth tier cities of the mainland,” he said.

Shaw Brothers shares closed 0.93 per cent down on Thursday at HK$1.06. The shares have gained 16.5 per cent so far this year.