BEIJING The Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin proudly pointed to the sweeping abstract painting of the Great Wall hanging in his marble-walled office.
It cost more than you can imagine, said the 57-year-old head of Dalian Wanda Group, Chinas largest private company.
Already a massive collector of Chinese art, Wang, who counts an executive jet and an 80-foot yacht among his personal prizes, is Chinas 11th-richest man and poised to acquire his biggest trophy yet.
Wanda is awaiting U.S. regulatory approval to finalize a $2.6 billion deal to purchase AMC Entertainment Holdings, the second-largest U.S. cinema chain.
The pending sale represents the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a private Chinese buyer and would give Wanda Chinas first beachhead in Hollywood.
AMC owns three movie theaters in the Charlotte area: Carolina Pavilion on South Boulevard, AMC Northlake and AMC Concord Mills.
Wang already commands a vast commercial empire, which includes shopping plazas, hotels, the largest domestic theater circuit and a fledgling film production division.
He could become something like a Jack Warner with Chinese characteristics, said David Wolf, an independent Beijing-based media analyst.
In an interview inside his headquarters 21 floors above an Imax theater in Beijings central business district, Wang dismissed skepticism about the AMC deal, said he was eager to do business with the increasing number of American film companies interested in China, and addressed nagging rumors that Wanda was under investigation for ties to disgraced government official Bo Xilai.
Wang said through a translator that he had a message for Hollywood, having seen the likes of DreamWorks Animation and Walt Disney Co.s Marvel Studios strike partnerships in China, where box-office sales grew 30 percent last year.
We welcome large-scale studios and filmmakers to work with Wanda, the entrepreneur said. We would like to invest in film production, and wed like to partner with directors, actors and filmmakers from Hollywood. They need to know the Chinese market is growing very fast and they should come as early as possible.
The AMC acquisition would make Wang one of the largest movie exhibitors in the world. But it also raises a host of strategic questions for Wanda, which is buying a company saddled with debt and short of growth prospects in an industry that is decidedly mature.
While both AMC and Wanda are in the business of showing films, Wang and his company got into it through the success of his commercial properties.
Cinemas in China are more about real estate than the exhibition business, Wolf said. You have a lot of square footage in these multipurpose developments, and multiplex cinemas turned out to be a good way of driving foot traffic to retail.
But by investing $500 million into renovation targeting seats, audio systems and screen systems, he said, Wang believes he can drive AMC to expand its revenue 10 percent or more a year.
Wang, a 17-year army veteran, built his empire from scratch in the 1980s in the then-undeveloped port city of Dalian.
It was there that Wang crossed paths with Bo, the former municipal party chief whose ongoing corruption scandal has dominated Chinese politics. Wang has been dogged by rumors over possible illicit ties to Bo because of his vast holdings in the former party chiefs former jurisdiction. Wang denied that he or anyone at Wanda was under investigation.
A businessman who worked closely with Wang, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Wang curried favors from Bo but largely steered clear of the flashy lifestyle that so many other entrepreneurs enjoyed in the booming seaside town.
Wang is smart, he said. He paid lots of attention to his business.