At number three on China’s rich list, worth $8.6 billion, Wang Jianlin can get away with a few eccentricities, but one wonders what he plans to do with Western Europe’s tallest residential building and the company behind the yachts featured in James Bond movies. His company, Dalian Wanda Group, is parting with $1.6 billion to acquire the two assets.
The penthouse of his planned 62-story luxury hotel and apartment building in central London’s Nine Elms would make Wang an ideal evil genius lair. And who wouldn’t want a Sunseeker yacht (or several) as a Thames getaway vehicle?
Still, it seems unlikely that we’ll be seeing Wang launching an elaborate scheme to rule the world. He’s just not evil enough—at least according to his own company’s website, which notes he has twice been given the China Charity Award for the “most loving individual donor,” among other honors such as an award for looking after employees. According to Forbes, he donated $197 million in cash to philanthropic causes in 2010, putting him at the top of the magazine’s China Philanthropy List. By 2012, though, he had slipped to #4, giving a mere $42 million.
Wang’s record isn’t entirely without a few whiffs of scandal. There was some speculation in 2011 that Wang made a winning $83 million bid for a valuable Qing dynasty vase and refused to pay, but he denied involvement and the case eventually fizzled out.
Like the greatest Bond villains, Wang has considerable influence in the business and political worlds; he was once an associate of disgraced Chongqing official Bo Xilai. From humble beginnings, his business interests have become vast. Wang joined Dalian Wanda in 1992 after a 16-year stint in China’s military. As chairman and controlling shareholder, he has turned it into a diverse giant, with interests in entertainment—it owns the US cinema company AMC—tourism, residential and business property. Wang plans to source $30 billion, or one third, of Wanda’s revenues from abroad by 2020. He may not own a white cat or suffer from a severe case of narcissistic megalomania, but Wang certainly has the empire Blofeld always dreamed of.