TIME magazine was co-founded in 1922 by Henry Luce, who worked as a journalist before launching his media business with his former Yale classmate Briton Haddon. The venture would later merge with Warner Communications to create the entertainment giant Time Warner.
The early career path of Enlight Media’s Wang Changtian evokes similarities with that of Luce (who was born in China’s Shandong province). Wang will be hoping that his own firm can build a global reputation too.
Wang was born in 1965 to a rural family in Dalian in Liaoning province. As one of the best performers in the 1984 gaokao (China’s college entrance exam), he enrolled at Fudan University in Shanghai to study journalism. In 1988 he was given a position at the news bureau for the National People’s Congress and in 1990 he became a financial journalist at a state-run newspaper. But Wang says he has always been fixated on another goal: a mission to entertain.
The stage was set in 1995 when he joined Beijing Television as a producer. Wang founded Enlight Media in 1998 as the central authorities began loosening the rules for privately held firms to provide content for state-run television. After making a number of popular shows, Enlight went into the movie industry, partnering with state firms to distribute and co-invest in local films.
Enlight Media went public in Shenzhen in 2011. But it was not until 2013 with the release of Lost in Thailand that it started to earn international recognition. Casting no celebrities, the movie cost Rmb30 million ($4.48 million) to produce but ended up surpassing Rmb1 billion at the box office. It also validated Enlight’s strategy of betting on up-and-coming directors like Xu Zheng (the actor-director of Lost in Thailand) and Vicki Zhao (the starlet turned first time director for So Young) for action and romance films.
“Some of the older directors are not very creative and their attitude toward filmmaking is outdated, so I don’t like to work with them,” Wang told The Entrepreneur.
The internet giant Alibaba paid $384 million for an 8.8% stake in Enlight in March 2015, valuing Wang’s company at $4.3 billion, and Enlight’s market capitalisation stood at $5 billion as of last week. The Forbes 2016 World Billionaire List estimates Wang’s net worth at $2.4 billion.
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