The Wanda Group saw its shares slide earlier today after several media reported that its billionaire owner, Wang Jianlin, was detained last week at Tianjin Airport and subsequently forbidden to leave the country. Wanda has dismissed the rumors as false.
Bowen, a US-based Chinese blog, first published the news, reporting that Wang and his family were detained by police for several hours at the airport on August 25 as they were leaving on a private plane bound for the United Kingdom. As they were boarding, they were allegedly stopped by police and forbidden to enter the plane. The report says that they were eventually released but told they were no longer allowed to leave the country.
The story was later picked up by several Chinese-language media outlets, including Apple Daily.
In a statement on its English website, Wanda Group dismissed the rumors as "utterly baseless":
"Certain individuals with ulterior motives have recently created and spread various vicious rumors regarding the Chairman of Wanda Group, Mr. Wang Jianlin. These rumors first appeared in mid-August, but were proven completely unfounded after Mr. Wang traveled to Lanzhou, Gansu province for a business trip. Unfortunately, it appears that some people have once again been peddling the same rumors. Yesterday, Boxun, a Chinese language media outlet based overseas, exaggerated the rumor even further and continued to spread vicious gossip.
"Wanda Group strongly reiterates that all of these rumors are utterly baseless and have ulterior motives behind them. Wanda Group encourages the public not to believe the rumors or spread them further. We have reported the situation to relevant government department and also reported the case to public security authorities. Wanda Group is determined to protect its rights with legal actions and pursue legal actions against the relevant media."
Meanwhile, Wanda Group's Weibo account has yet to address the rumors.
The Wanda boss is one of China's richest men. Dalian Wanda Group owns Wanda Cinemas, the world’s largest chain of movie theaters, and Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties. Wang is also minority owner of Atlético Madrid.
Until last month, Wanda had owned a cluster of Wanda theme parks across China, with Wang himself once vowing to take down Shanghai Disneyland. The parks, along with 76 hotels and 91 percent of 13 tourism projects, were sold to a Chinese developer for US$9.3 billion in July.
The rumors come as China continues to crack down on overseas investment. Just last month, Wang announced that Wanda would "actively respond to the state's call" to keep its main investments in China.
[Image via sino-us.com]