Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda and China's richest man, talks to FT editor Lionel Barber about investing in Hollywood, the huge transfer fees in Chinese football and the future of the company’s shopping malls.
Filmed by Michael Lin and Shuo Wang. Edited by Tom Griggs.
I'm here in Beijing with Chairman Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda, one of the giants of the entertainment business in China, and indeed in the world. Mr. Chairman, good to see you.
What is your ultimate ambition? You are a pioneer investor in Hollywood. You're one of China's richest men. Do you want to be the king of distribution of film in the world?
What went wrong with your proposed purchase of Dick Clark Productions? Many people thought this was a deal that you would pull off. What was the problem?
Are you talking about new capital controls imposed by the Chinese authorities? That was your problem?
Now, you produced a new movie, The Great Wall. It had a mixed reception amongst critics. How do you judge the success of the movie, and what lessons did you learn from The Great Wall?
Now, you are an immensely successful businessman. Dalian Wanda has grown like this. But some people now say Dalian Wanda has too many shopping malls, and is exposed to the likes of Alibaba and e-commerce. What is your response to that competitive threat?
[SPEAKING CHINESE] Pushes
So you don't agree that shopping malls, they're so yesterday.
Let's talk about soccer, football, Chinese football. You own 15% of Atletico Madrid. You know a lot about football in China. Has the market gone totally mad with sky-high wages? Has it really gone mad?
By the way, Atletico Madrid is a very good football club, but not as good as my club, Tottenham Hotspur.
I'm very pleased to hear that you know your London football. Can we talk about the Chinese film industry? Why is it-- why are the number of audience, the people going to the cinema, why is it stagnating in the last couple of years?
Now, I have friends in Hollywood, and one of the qualities that people have is they are so charming. They are so smooth. But you, Mr. Chairman, have a reputation for being a really tough guy. So how do you find dealing with Hollywood and filmmakers? Does your approach-- I mean, you were in the military. How does your approach go down?
Chairman Wang, what is the secret of successfully negotiating with Americans?
Do you think the Chinese leadership looks at what makes a great power, and they look at America and they say, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood. So we, China, we need our Chinese Hollywood.
How much are you investing in the Hollywood of the East, Mr. Chairman?
My last question, Mr. Chairman, is you bought Iron Man triathlon. How do you keep fit personally?
Mr. Chairman, it's been a great pleasure to talk about mad football, Hollywood, and triathlons. Thank you.