Anbang Insurance Group, the Chinese financial company that this week bought Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel for $1.95bn, has one huge thing going for it in its home market – its founder and chairman is the grandson-in-law of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of modern China.
The chairman, Wu Xiaohui, who is in his late 40s, is renowned in Beijing for his ruthless business style and the support he receives from powerful political leaders. He is married to the granddaughter of the late paramount leader.
Deng, the diminutive former Communist guerrilla, is the man who opened China to the world during his time as leader from the late 1970s until his death in 1997, and his family retains enormous political influence to this day.
Before his death, Deng handpicked his two successors – former Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao – and his family remains close to that of current President Xi Jinping, whose father served as a faithful lieutenant to Deng.
Mr Wu has dabbled successfully in real estate, mining and infrastructure investment and is regarded as the most important source of income for some members of the Deng family.
Mr Wu established Anbang Property & Casualty Insurance in 2004 when it was virtually impossible for private business people to get a licence to enter the state-dominated insurance sector.
Another large insurance company in China – Ping An Insurance – has deep ties to the family of former Premier Wen Jiabao, some of whom were large shareholders in the company.
Anbang Insurance, which has amassed licences to conduct nearly every kind of financial service, was established five years ago. Some 18 months later, by the end of 2012, it already boasted assets of Rmb510bn ($83bn).
It now claims assets of more than Rmb700bn, including the Waldorf Astoria.
Apart from extensive real estate holdings in China, Anbang also holds significant stakes in at least four banks, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Merchants Bank, according to Chinese media reports.
It is also the controlling shareholder in six insurers, two asset management companies, a financial leasing group and a property developer.
While it remains a second-tier insurance player within China, Anbang’s rise shows no sign of flagging, and has been credited by Chinese media to Mr Wu’s business acumen, as well as his “apparent success at pushing regulatory limits”, according to Chinese magazine Caixin.
Mr Wu and members of the Deng family could not be contacted for comment.
Anbang Insurance Group declined to comment.
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