Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has bought U.S. film studio Legendary Entertainment for about $3.5 billion, turning its chairman into a Hollywood movie mogul as China’s richest man steps up a drive to diversify his business empire overseas.
Wanda confirmed the deal at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday, where chairman Wang Jianlin said he plans to package Legendary, producer of hits like “Jurassic World”, with his company’s existing movie production assets in China and sell shares in the merged operation in an initial public offering.
The executive gave no further details on the IPO plan, but said was acquiring Legendary Entertainment for both intellectual property reasons and the studio’s movies. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month a deal had been agreed.
The deal – what Wanda said was its “largest culture acquisition overseas” – comes as Wang accelerates a drive to diversify a giant with 2015 revenue of $44 billion away from its core, but slowing domestic property operations. With deals to buy into everything from financial services to Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid, Wanda said on Monday revenue rose 19 percent last year.
Wanda is already the world’s biggest movie theater operator, having bought AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, North America’s second-largest cinema chain, for $2.6 billion in 2012. It owns Australian movie theater company Hoyt’s Group, and Wanda Cinema Line Corp, the group’s domestically listed firm, is the biggest theater operator in China.
Under the deal announced on Tuesday, Wanda said it will buy an unspecified majority stake in Legendary. As part of the transaction, Legendary’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Tull will continue to head up the movie maker.
Founded in 2000, Legendary has made hits such as “The Dark Knight” and “Man of Steel”, as well as “The Hangover” film franchise.
Legendary generally provides half the financing for movies whose budgets can run up to $200 million or more. It also has an agreement with China Film Co, the largest and most influential film company in China, to co-produce movies.
(Reporting by Shu Zhang and Matthew Miller; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)