Acquisitive Chinese property-to-entertainment conglomerate Wanda Group is buying the maker of the Golden Globes awards show, US television rights owner Dick Clark Productions, for “approximately $1 billion”, it said Friday. Wanda has sought to transform its business in the face of uncertainties in Chinese real estate, and has invested heavily in film, buying Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment earlier this year.
The latest deal marks its entry into television production, it said in a statement, calling it “a big step forward in expanding Wanda’s map in the entertainment industry”. Dick Clark Productions’ eponymous founder made his name presenting American Bandstand for more than 30 years, and as well as the Golden Globes, the firm owns the television rights to events ranging from Miss America to the New Year countdown in New York’s Times Square.
It also makes the hit series “So You Think You Can Dance” and its lowercase “dc” logo is a common sight on US television. It describes itself on its website as “the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming” and owning “one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries”. Wanda said the acquisition meant it would have the “highest-end” television resources from the beginning of its expansion into the medium. “Obtaining top television production rights brings about complementary and co-ordinated development for Wanda’s current focuses on the film, tourism, and sports industries,” it said, adding the present management would remain in place.
Wanda, headed by one of China’s richest men Wang Jianlin, has its roots in commercial real estate development but has diversified widely in recent years into entertainment and sports. It now describes itself as the world’s biggest movie theatre operator and biggest sports company. Expanding its entertainment portfolio is an important part of the company’s strategy to cope with uncertainty in China’s property market, Li Jiachao, marketing director for mergers and acquisitions advisory firm DealGlobe told AFP.
The property boom fuelled China’s stellar economic growth of recent decades, but has entered the doldrums more recently, with Wang himself warning that the country is in the midst of the “biggest bubble in history”. “With real estate reaching a bottleneck for further development, Wanda, as well as many other Chinese investors, have realised that culture and media is the next trend,” Li said. “Chinese are making more money and are more willing to spend on sports and entertainment.”
As well as the $3.5 billion acquisition of Legendary Entertainment – the filmmakers behind the recent Batman trilogy and Jurassic World – Wanda bought US movie theatre chain AMC for $2.6 billion in 2012, and London-based Odeon & UCI cinema group this year in a deal worth around $1.2 billion.
Wanda announced a partnership with “Big Six” studio Sony Pictures in September to invest in movies in which it would “strive to highlight the China element”. Philippe Blatter, nephew of ousted FIFA president Sepp, plays a leading role in its sports division after Wanda bought his company Infront – which holds some broadcasting rights to the football World Cup – for more than 1 billion euros. It also has a 20 percent share of Spanish football club Atletico Madrid and owns the organiser of Ironman extreme endurance contests.
“Wanda is the front-runner in Chinese firms’ recent overseas shopping spree,” Li said, adding that the company’s “need to invest is more urgent partly because it is under pressure to transform its business”. Hedging its bets, the company is also attempting to expand into the IT sector, recently announcing that it would seek to enter the burgeoning Internet of Things. Wang, 62, is worth $31.6 billion according to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires ranking, putting him behind only Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, in the Chinese wealth stakes.