After an M&A spree overseas in recent years, Wang Jianlin has become better known to the world’s bankers and dealmakers. But for those who are trying to map Wang’s business connections, Sun Xishuang is another name that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The boss of Dalian Yifang
Yifang’s Beijing headquarters is in the same building as that of Wanda. Similar to Wang’s style in Wanda’s early days, Sun has tried to shun media coverage, staying lower profile even as Wang has stepped more into the spotlight.
The Jilin native’s property company Yifang did make headlines in 2015 when it took over Dalian’s football franchise, which was previously owned by Wanda and Xu Ming’s Dalian Shide (see this week’s “Property” section). In 2014, Sun’s name also appeared in Australian newspapers as “the mystery bidder” who partnered with Wang in pursuit of local cinema chain Hoyts.
According to Chinese media outlets Sun has been a long-term backer of Wang. As recently as 2017, Yifang was still the biggest shareholder (after Wang) in Wanda’s listed crown jewels: Wanda Commercial Properties and Wanda Film Holdings.
In the same year, when Wanda was in dire need of cash, ThePaper.cn reported that Yifang also bought a $3 billion ski resort project in Changbaishan from Wanda.
But perhaps most importantly, according to Time Weekly, Sun controlled a Beijing-based company that helped Dalian Wanda transform itself from a state-owned enterprise to one owned by Wang in 2001. The privatisation process paved the way for Wang to become one of China’s richest men.
Yifang was also founded in 2001. Its businesses now span property, entertainment and healthcare. Sun is worth about Rmb30 billion, according to Hurun’s latest rich list (Wang is worth more, about Rmb140 billion, on the same list).
In his own words
“I started to invest in Wanda in 1993. Wang Jianlin is the real deal. I invested in Wanda but in fact I was investing in this man called Wang Jianlin,” Sun once told journalists.
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