Property tycoon tops China’s rich list, Wanda boss slides

FAN Editor

Property tycoon Xu Jiayin has vaulted to the top of a Chinese rich list after his wealth quadrupled, knocking Wang Jianlin off his longtime position at No. 1.

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The Hurun Report, the best known list of China’s wealthiest people, estimated that wealth held by Xu, founder of developer Evergrande, surged to $43 billion, moving him up nine places from last year.

Wang, head of real estate and leisure conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, fell from first to fifth place as his wealth shrank 28 percent to $23 billion, the report said. He had held the top spot since 2013.

The change reflects Beijing’s efforts to tighten up on companies piling up debt to make marquee investments abroad and instead encourage entrepreneurs to focus on domestic growth.

Under Wang’s leadership, Dalian Wanda started as a real estate developer and then branched out by acquiring a Hollywood studio, U.S. cinema chains, Spanish soccer teams and a British yacht maker.

But his global ambitions were thwarted as Beijing tightened up controls on outbound investment, both to rein in excessive spending on foreign entertainment and sports assets not seen as useful for developing China’s economy and to avoid running down the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

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Earlier this year, Wanda sold off most of its Chinese theme parks and hotels to rivals, an abrupt turnaround from earlier plans to compete with Walt Disney Co. It also failed to follow through on its proposed acquisition of Dick Clark Productions.

Xu’s Evergrande, based in the southern city of Guangzhou, is one of China’s biggest property developers. Xu, 59, is known as an avid supporter of Chinese soccer and has invested in the sport domestically.

Familiar faces from China’s tech industry rounded out the top three, with Pony Ma of Internet company Tencent second with $37 billion in wealth and Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, third with $30 billion.

Hurun’s report covered 2,130 mainland Chinese individuals worth at least $300 million but CEO Rupert Hoogewerf said his researchers missed others who go to “extraordinary lengths” to hide their wealth.

“For every one we have found, we estimate there to be two that we have missed,” he said.

The Shanghai firm publishes a monthly magazine and releases yearly rankings and research about the world’s richest people and their spending habits.

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