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Forbes names Wang Asia's businessman of the year

Updated: 2013-11-23 09:55
( China Daily)

Wang Jianlin's real estate empire rests on a power trio of values: structure, culture and execution. They added up to his being named Forbes Asia's 2013 Businessman of the Year on Thursday.

"He is foremost among a rising crop of Chinese tycoons who are beginning to reshape global business," an article announcing the decision on the Forbes website said.

The article, which was written by senior editor and Forbes Shanghai bureau chief Russell Flannery, lauded Wang's "remarkable real estate record, his joining of traditional Sino sensibilities with modern business practices and his increasingly evident personal brio".

Forbes names Wang Asia's businessman of the year

Until now, the 59-year-old chairman of Dalian Wanda Group Corp Ltd - one of China's largest real estate developers and the world's largest operator of movie theaters - had been relatively unknown outside of China, despite being the country's richest man. Last month, Wang's $14 billion fortune earned him the top spot on Forbes China Rich List.

Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, told China Daily that the recognition from a US-based business magazine "shows people in the Chinese business community that (Wang) is known outside China - an important step for Chinese businesspeople who want to show that they are a success by global standards and not just as a player in China. It's like being an Olympic medalist, not just a winner at local competitions in China", Gordon said.

Getting the nod from Forbes, however, is unlikely to increase Wang's cross-border deal-making power, Gordon said.

"To do deals outside China, a Chinese businessman needs money, expertise, and an understanding of how differently business works in other countries. That's more important than being named in a magazine story," he said.

Li Hairong, a Michigan State University advertising and public relations professor, said the Forbes title potentially allows Wang to increase his holdings. The Forbes recognition "lends a world reputation to Mr Wang, and such a reputation will not only raise his status in China but also empower him in the global marketplace, making it easier for him to get bank loans, attract international talent, make mergers and acquisitions, and expand his business globally," Li said.

What is certain is that Wang - the Chengdu-born eldest of five sons who didn't have enough to eat as a teenager - came a long way in a short time. In 2005, he made his debut on Forbes' China Rich List with a $309 million fortune. Within five years, he was on the magazine's 2010 Billionaire's List with $3 billion in wealth.

Chen Ming-Jer, a professor of strategic management at the University of Virginia's Darden School, said that Wang's closely held global company is founded on a "comprehensive organizational structure that allows it to scale up globally, have in-depth corporate cultural content and very rich corporate cultural activities".

In other words, Chen told Forbes, Wang "rooted the company in Confucian values, which are lacking in Western society and business".

He also brings the discipline he acquired during a 16-year military career into his business affairs. "He attracts very good talent, trains personnel and holds them accountable for project execution," Chen said.

It's this "complete integration of culture-strategy-execution under one roof that sets Mr Wang apart and has led to his and Wanda's success".

Exemplifying Wang's embrace of Confucianism, earlier this year, after closing his $2.6 billion acquisition of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, based in Kansas City, Missouri, Wang donated more than $1.3 million to public high schools in the city and across the state line in Kansas City, Kansas. Weeks before making that gesture, he told Reuters that Chinese companies should try to do something American people would appreciate.

With $48 billion in assets, Wanda's holdings include 80 retail malls - with residential units the company sells - and 46 five-star hotels in China. His scooping up of struggling AMC, the largest US theater chain last year, was both part of a value-investing strategy and an endeavor to expand into new fields.

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