Wang Jianlin may be ready to hand over the reins of his 634 billion yuan (HK$712 billion) business empire – spanning from shopping centers, theme parks and sports clubs to cinemas – to a successor, but his only son may not be the one.
The founder and chairman of Dalian Wanda Group said he was most likely to pick a professional manager to take over the running of his business, according to a speech he made at an entrepreneurs summit at the weekend.
“I have asked my son about the succession plan, and he said he does not want to live a life like mine,” said Wang, according to a transcript of his speech on Wanda’s website.
“Perhaps young people have their own quests and priorities. Probably it will be better to hand over to professional managers and have us sit on the board and see them run the company.”
The scions of China’s billionaire entrepreneurs are increasingly striking different paths, as more than three decades of breakneck economic growth and overseas education have given them experiences, world view and aspirations different from their parents’.
More than 80 per cent of Chinese heirs are not keen on taking the reins of their parents’ businesses, according to a survey by Shanghai Jiaotong University, covering 182 of the country’s top family-run companies.
Some were backing off due to intense pressures, while others simply were pursuing other career interests, another study by an association of private enterprises in the mainland showed.
Wanda, founded in Dalian in 1988, is the epitome of the country’s rags-to-riches story. It grew from a small property developer into a conglomerate operating malls, hotels, theme parks and the world’s largest chain of cinemas. In the process, it made Wang and his son immensely wealthy.
Following a worldwide buying spree that added AMC Entertainment Holdings, Hoyts Group and Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, Wanda now operates the world’s largest chain of cinemas, with more than 10,000 screens. It also owns hotels run by Westin and Sofitel, as well as shopping malls.
After snapping up stakes in European football clubs, Wanda is now turning its sights on Hollywood, announcing plans to buy Dick Clark Productions that granted it the broadcasting rights to Golden Globe Awards.
Wang, 62, also struck a more conciliatory note in his weekend speech. While he had previously disparaged Walt Disney’s Shanghai theme park and predicted it would not turn a profit for 10 to 20 years, he back-pedalled on his remarks, saying he had “already gotten reconciled with Disney,” after visiting the company’s head office in Burbank, California.