Dalian Wanda’s Wang Jianlin Declares War on Disney

Wang Jianlin Dalian Wanda

China real estate giant takes on a tiny mouse

China’s richest man is getting ready to face off with the world’s best known mouse.

Wang Jianlin, the founder of real estate developer Dalian Wanda has announced plans to invest tens of billions of renminbi into a “cultural city” destination in Wuxi that the property magnate predicts will earn more money than Disney’s upcoming Shanghai Disneyland amusement park.

Speaking in Wuxi recently, Wang announced his declaration of war on Disney. “Wanda is investing tens of billions of yuan in Wuxi to create a cultural city more complex than Disney, with a large outdoor amusement park, an indoor theme park, and the world’s first children’s amusement park.”

According to local news reports, Wang challenged observers to “compare Wanda head to head with Shanghai Disney in terms of park visitors, and amount of revenue and see who is better.” The new Wuxi facility is planned to be completed by the end of 2016, and will include movie theaters, and large shopping areas.

In his speech, Wang indicated that Wanda intends to transform the cultural tourism industry by building ten of these cultural cities across China, in locations including Qingdao, Hefei, and Xishuangbanna. The developer also plans to build two to three Wanda cultural tourism cities overseas. Wang projected that by 2020 Wanda will reach at least RMB 80 billion per year in revenue from these cultural tourism projects.

Leveraging the Local Attractions

Rather than rely on Mickey and Donald to help sell his parks, Wang believes that highlighting existing local attractions will be the key to attracting vistors. The Wuxi development will spotlight the city’s famous Jinshan temple, and the Xishuangbanna project will feature the historic Tea Horse Road.

The Shanghai Disney Resort will cost nearly RMB 25 billion (US$4.1 billion) and is scheduled to open at the end of next year, according to its website.

Taking on More Projects and Raising Cash

Wang and Dalian Wanda have been one of China’s most aggressive companies in the last year, both domestically and abroad.

Wanda took on US$1 billion hotel projects in London and New York last year, as well as buying the Sunseeker luxury yacht company for more than US$500 million, and spending US$28 million on a Picasso.

During December, Wang announced that the group is seeking $318 million of investment from its existing shareholders to help continue the company’s acquisitions of hotels, overseas real estate, yacht makers, and impressionist art.