Jack Gao exits Wanda, Legendary Entertainment as group’s global push faces setback
Jack Gao, senior vice-president of Dalian Wanda Group and interim CEO of its Legendary Entertainment unit, has left the company, the South China Morning Post has confirmed.
Gao left of his own free will, said sources familiar with the matter, after China’s regulators stepped up their scrutiny of Wanda’s overseas investing. His role would have been reduced as it became more difficult for the Chinese conglomerate to operate in the entertainment industry.
News of Gao’s departure first appeared on the Hollywood Reporter’s website this morning.
Gao could not immediately be reached to comment on Tuesday.
Wanda Group, which started out as a property developer, has expanded into global entertainment businesses aggressively in the past few years.
It bought Legendary Entertainment, one of the largest independent film companies in Hollywood, for US$3.5 billion in cash last year. The deal was China’s biggest foreign cultural acquisition to date, the company said.
Legendary has produced or financed global hits such as 2008’s The Dark Knight and the Hangover franchise, as well as Godzilla and Pacific Rim, both of which were successful in China.
In 2015 it bought the Australian cinema chain, Hoyts, for US$366 million.
Previously, Wanda purchased a majority stake in the AMC theatre chain in the US for US$2.6 billion.
However, earlier this year Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda, said the company would switch its investment focus to domestic markets, as it tries to “actively respond to the call of the country”.
That came after the Chinese authorities launched checks on Wanda’s loans and banned banks from funding the company’s overseas investments amid concerns about high capital outflows.
Zeng Maojun, president of Wanda Film Holding, will be the interim CEO at Legendary, according to the sources. Mary Parent, Legendary’s production chief, will stay on.
Gao joined Wanda in 2015 as CEO of international investments and operations. Earlier this year, he became interim CEO of Legendary Entertainment after Thomas Tull stepped down from the post.
Gao was previously CEO of China investments and operations at News Corp, and before that, the president and general manager of Microsoft China.