27-year-old Wang Sicong, the son of China’s richest man the Chairman of Wanda Group, Wang Jianlin, has long projected the image of a loud-mouthed and promiscuous playboy, having been photographed with thinly-clad female models on several occasions. Still, he has gained the nickname “The People’s Husband” due in no small part to his wealth, charm and legions of female fans.
But there’s more to Wang Sicong than just that. The University College London Philosophy graduate is a board member of the Wanda Group. He has also proven himself as an aspiring young venture capitalist.
Two years ago, Wang Sr. told the media that he had decided to entrust his son with the absolute freedom to manage 500 million RMB, or roughly 80 million USD, which he believed in the worst case scenario, would be the price to pay to teach his son one of life’s lessons. “It is enough for him to be duped 20 times. If he blows everything, he can at least return to Wanda,” Wang Jianlin said.
Wang Sicong. Photo from Wang’s Weibo page.
Wanda Group, the monstrous conglomerate that Wang Jianlin founded, has a market capitalization of 202.3 billion HKD, or 27.1 billion USD (as of Oct 5, 2015). Wang and his family control 2.43 billion shares of Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties through Wanda Group, which places his family’s net worth at 14.72 billion USD.
Wang Jr. pumped the 500 million RMB his father gave him into Prometheus Capital, a private equity fund in which he has a 100% stake. Since September 2012, Prometheus has invested in at least 17 companies that run the gamut from dentistry to digital studio, from restaurant chain to funeral parlor. Some analysts estimate that Wang Sicong has raked in handsome rewards, in some cases seeing as much as a 500% return.
Five of them have gone public. Game developer Forgame, funeral service provider Fu Shou Yuan, and live social video platform Tian Ge, are listed in Hong Kong. Mobile gaming firm iDreamSky is listed on the NASDAQ, whilst Wuxi Lead Auto Equipment is listed on China’s Second Board.
Here is a breakdown of sectors Wang Sicong has poured money into:
What are the factors which determine Wang Sicong’s investments?
Key I: A Father-son alliance
Wang Sicong’s Prometheus Capital has stated specifically from the very beginning that it is not interested in real estate, which has been the foundation of and central to the success of Wanda Group, his father’s conglomerate. He seems determined to show that he is in full feather and ready to take wing. But is the line that Wang Jr. has drawn between Prometheus and Wanda really so clear?
In June 2013, Prometheus Capital invested in Korean visual effects studio Dexter Digital. Wanda is the world’s largest cinema chain operator and is bent on building a massive film studio, or what Wang Sr. calls “the Chinese Hollywood,” in the coastal city of Qingdao.
In September 2012, Prometheus invested in Hallasan Korean Barbecue. Since then, the restaurant chain has been opening new locations at an unprecedented speed, many of which are inside urban shopping centers owned and managed by Wanda.
A number of portfolio companies including, Dianping.com, the Chinese hybrid of Yelp and Groupon, and LeTV sports, a sports video streaming site, have both Prometheus and Wanda as their investors.
It is hard to tell if these decisions are made by the father to guide the son, or by the son to assist the father. One thing is certain: by taking on pilot projects and exploring new opportunities, Prometheus has become Wanda’s think tank and pathfinder.
Key II: High-tech and new energy
You may never have heard of Wuxi Lead Auto Equipment, but investing in it has proven to be one of Wang Sicong’s wisest decisions.
Wuxi Lead Auto Equipment is a leading smart equipment supplier in China, specializing in the manufacture of thin film solar cells, Li-ion batteries and photovoltaic cells/models. Its clients include Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and BYD. It has also developed “Lead Cloud” and a big data center together with IBM.
Before Wuxi Lead went public, Wang Sicong bought 1.7 million shares acquiring a 3.39% stake in the company. Wuxi Lead’s IPO price on May 6 was 21.21 RMB. At September 28, Wang’s return for this investment was 91.8 million RMB.
In addition to Wuxi Lead, Wang has also invested in a bunch of other tech firms opening up areas that have previously been out of reach to Wanda.
Key III: Gaming
Admittedly, gaming is Wang’s biggest hobby. Aside from investing through Prometheus, Wang Sicong has funded several online gaming platforms and developers out of his own pocket.
Despite the Chinese public perception of playing computer games as an addictive and wasteful pastime, competitive gaming is in fact recognized as a fully professional sport in China and a fast-growing, lucrative business.
However, the Chinese competitive gaming scene is messy at best. Burning issues, including poor sportsmanship and ethics, lack of proper regulation, unhealthy competition, and female-repellant excessive titillation, need to be addressed.
“The chaos in competitive gaming is not about money. It needs systematic management, a transparent set of rules, and a professional environment,” Wang Sicong once said. He has stated his ambition is to bring order to the entire industry.
Key IV: Celebrity status
While his father’s enormous wealth and business connections are indispensable to his son’s success, Wang Sicong has been cashing in on his own incredible influence as an opinion leader. On Sina Weibo, China’s microblogging service, Wang has 14 million followers.
“I don’t care if my friends are rich or not. After all, they can’t possibly be richer than I am,” he once famously said.
Chinese netizens generally loathe the rich and find materialism repulsive, but Wang’s straightforward statement of money and power is embraced as unbridled sincerity. Moreover, he openly feuds with whomever he isn’t fond of and often clashes with the establishment, which today’s young Chinese especially value in their pursuit of individualism. (In an interview with BBC, he said gaming gives refuge to young Chinese who are disillusioned with the reality, “The state chooses what’s mainstream, and you have to conform to that. If your ideals are not mainstream, then you’re wrong.”)
Businesses and products Wang discusses on Weibo typically experience a large boost in their name recognition and traffic. Each of his Weibo posts becomes trending topics. His remarks generate tens of hundreds of comments and shares. “In other words, in terms of leverage, he alone is comparable to any mainstream media outlet,” iHeima, a tech blog writes.