Banking & Finance

Prometheus bound

Top tycoon’s son sees his fund’s assets frozen by a Shanghai court


Wang: scion of the Wanda empire

Could Wang Sicong, the son of one of China’s richest men, soon feature on the Supreme Court’s list of bad debtors?

That was the question posed online after it emerged that a court in Shanghai had frozen the assets of Prometheus Capital – the $1 billion investment fund run by Wang.

The news followed hot on the tail of another Shanghai court ruling that froze $10 million of assets in companies belonging to Wang’s Banana Culture Development Project.

Details of the court orders are scarce but the most recent one came into effect on October 15 and will last until October 14, 2022 unless it is rescinded.

It is not known if the freeze applies to the whole or part of Prometheus Capital’s funds.

Lawyers interviewed by Chinese media said the embargo could have been ordered as a result of a financial dispute. “This probably means that Wang Sicong owes money to others who are trying to recover it and the freeze is a protective measure,” advised a lawyer quoted by the financial news website Huxiu.

Wang, 31, started his business career in 2009 with Rmb500 million ($70.98 million) given to him by his father, Dalian Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin. The younger Wang was uninterested in making his name in Dalian Wanda’s then core business of real estate, and he branched out into less traditional areas such as eSports and entertainment.

Wang junior has often courted controversy by posting pictures flaunting his wealth and getting into spats with journalists and celebrities. In recent months he has tried to keep a lower profile but broke a six-month silence on October 3 to rubbish a high-end sushi restaurant in Chengdu. Writing on review site Dianping he said the food there was “the worst sushi” he had eaten for two years. “I feel sorry for the people of Chengdu,” he added.

In 2018 the Hurun China rich list estimated the Wanda scion’s personal wealth at Rmb5 billion – making him the wealthiest of the so-called fu’erdai or ‘second generation rich’. That pales in comparison to his father’s wealth – albeit that has taken nosedive in the last year, falling from Rmb160 billion in October 2018 to Rmb87 billion today. Wang Jianlin’s position on the Forbes’ China rich list fell from 4th to 39th over the same period.

In a way, Wang Sicong has blazed a trail for some of his father’s business decision-making at Wanda, which has diversified out of real estate in recent years and into sports and entertainment.

That said, for Wanda times have proven a lot tougher in recent years. The erstwhile acquisitive firm was forced to sell off some of its higher profile overseas assets in late 2017, when the government turned sour on spending sprees outside China. Local asset sales followed in a brutal year of deleveraging (see WiC438).

“Many companies can do well over a certain period but with one major adjustment they are gone,” Wang senior said earlier this year, before adding that the company’s restructuring had been a “success”.

His son’s future fortunes are unclear. Several companies that Prometheus invested in have gone bust or are under investigation for financial mismanagement. Others are under scrutiny for “irregular operations” although none of this is likely to pose a personal risk to Wang, lawyers say. In April he signed Prometheus’ assets over to Wanda – although he still manages them.

Even so, the idea that the UK-educated, wealth-flaunting playboy might be subject to the Supreme Court’s black list – a penalty aimed at restricting a person’s ability to spend on items like foreign holidays and private education while debts are outstanding – tickled many netizens.“From private jet to the hard seat on the slow train,” mocked one person on Sina Weibo.

“Guess you won’t be complaining about the bad sushi anymore,” quipped another.

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