Wang Jianlin was born in Sichuan in 1954 and, like his father before him, joined the army at 15. After an 18 year military career, he was demobilised and became a civil servant in Dalian – a city regularly voted the most ‘livable’ in China. In 1988 he was asked to take on a failed real estate business. He turned it into Dalian Wanda.
Wang saw an opportunity to redevelop the unsightly south of the city, and enjoyed something close to carte blanche from the local authorities to transform the area. He started out with ‘Beijing Street’, introducing large residential apartments of innovative design. Over 800 units were sold in a month, launching his reputation as a real estate mogul.
For the next couple of years Wang specialised in urban renewal, and in 1991 Wanda became one of the state entities designated to become a ‘pilot’ joint stock firm.
In the privatization process Wang soon became one of the firm’s major shareholders but he saw opportunities to expand beyond Dalian.
And as a football fan he saw the brand potential in backing the local football team. ‘Dalian Wanda’ becoming the country’s first professional football team, winning four championships in six years (Wang exited football sponsorship in 2000 before the game became ensnared in a series of scandals, see WiC39). As he put it: “It now appears we left at exactly the right time.”
A Fish Called Wanda
Nationally known, Wanda began to expand across northern China, building specially tailored office-cum-shopping malls, pulling in international brands like Walmart as anchor tenants.
Wanda also became a major player in the cinema industry, realising that movie screens could play a role in driving traffic to malls. Wanda cinemas now account for around 30% of Chinese box office receipts.
Wanda has also launched a department store chain (called Vans) and entered the hotel business.
Need to know
Wanda forecasts Rmb40 billion in annual sales in 2010 and over Rmb6 billion in net profit. The revenues will come from 40 Wanda plazas, 18 five-star hotels, 600 film screens, 25 chain stores and over 6 million square metres of rental property.
Wang ranks ninth on the Hurun list with a net worth of Rmb29 billion.
He loves singing, and is rumoured to have the most state-of-the-art karaoke facility in China. Which is no mean achievement.
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