The Paley Center for Media‘s International Council Summit will be held November 21st & 22nd in New York. The theme of this year’s event is “The Data Overthrow.” It will explore and debate new business, advertising, and distribution …
Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu is dealmaking again. The mogul is hooking up with Thomas Middelhoff, the former CEO of Bertelsmann and German holding company Arcandor, to combine assets into alternative investment joint venture BT Capital. The new vehicle will be announced today, The Financial Times reports. BT Capital will combine the parties’ existing media interests in education, music, news and other resources. The heart of the business will be Wu and wife Yang Lan’s film and TV businesses which have grown in the past nearly two years. BT Capital will also make private equity investments in TV, film, Internet and other businesses both in China and elsewhere. One target is a TV production company that specializes in formats, the partners said. Lan, known as the ‘Oprah of China’ will be a director.
Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu has established a series of joint ventures with global partners including Justin Lin, Avi Arad and Pinewood Studios over the past 16 months. Today, he’s announcing the creation of Seven Stars Constellation Film Company which will focus on titles for the domestic Chinese market. The company will produce local-language films as well as act as theatrical distributor for Wu’s non-Chinese pics. When I sat down with Wu in May, he told me that there needed to be a redefinition of Chinese films in order for them to break out of their home market. “I don’t believe Chinese movies should only have Chinese cast and talents shooting it with a Chinese story. Hollywood is a symbol of global movies, it’s not just American movies. It’s become a platform and a melting pot; it’s for all the talents and capital from all over the globe. Therefore I’m trying a new route for the Chinese movie.” Under the new Constellation banner, Wu is partnering with Joyful Film, led by Liu Yiwei who was involved in recent Chinese box office winners Lost In Thailand and Finding Mr. Right. Here’s the full release:
Bruno Wu is called the ’CEO of China’ as in Chief Entertainment Officer. Known for blending work and pleasure during nightly dinners at his Shanghai supper club, he is decidedly a controversial media mogul. Even more so after he made a spate of high-profile announcements over the past 15 months with very little to show for them so far. Little wonder there’s a lot of skepticism about his complex network of companies plus important relationships with major filmmakers. He came to Hollywood to kick the tires about acquiring Summit Entertainment in late 2011, and by February 2012 formed the Harvest Seven Stars Media Fund with an initial capital-raising target of $800M to invest in mergers, acquisitions, distribution, marketing, and content. This was followed by a series of joint ventures with Fast & Furious 6 director Justin Lin and Spider-Man franchise producer Avi Arad plus plans to remake John Woo’s The Killer. He also has intentions to build a mega-media hub in China called Chinawood.
Wu is based in China but is a fluent English and French speaker who earned his PhD from Shanghai’s Fudan University, has his Master’s from Washington University in St Louis, and also studied at the Université de Savoie in the French Alps. He was COO of Asia Television Ltd in the early 1990s before co-chairing Sina.com, the owner of China’s version of Twitter. He is currently chairman of the Chinese online video portal Ku6 Media Co Ltd. His own companies include the Sun Redrock Investment Group, Sun Enterprises, and the Sun Media Group, which is headed by his wife Yang Lan (known as the ‘Oprah of China with 55 million social media followers) and owns a TV production banner and a female-skewed media and marketing company called Her Village among many entities. Wu’s new Seven Stars Media Group houses all of the entertainment-related ventures announced in the past 15 months, including Tiger TV which will be a mixed martial arts channel launching later this summer in both the U.S. and China. Wu himself is an executive producer on two movies that were showcased at last month’s Cannes Film Festival where he traveled with an entourage consisting of bodyguards and two Michelin-starred chefs. That’s where I conducted this rare interview:
DEADLINE: There’s a history of people who make splashy announcements and tarnish themselves when they don’t follow through. You’ve had this series of announcements and little seems to have actually happened. There’s been some skepticism.
BRUNO WU: Again, first of all, everything that we have announced is in very good proceeding. So far they all made their schedule and are exceeding their schedule. With the exception of our partnership with Jake Eberts because he suddenly passed away which was a real setback on Last Empress. And except for the remake of The Killer that, because of the difference of opinion over the script, we’ll probably turn into a TV series through Justin Lin’s company. So we so far are at the point where everything we’ve done we are well ahead of schedule. Normally, we don’t like to make announcements. But when we work with a partner, you announce it, and certain things must be announced to make it clear. But we don’t have to announce every progress until we have a product coming to the market. In a way, I understand the skepticism but it really doesn’t matter to me. I’m not bothered by it. To me, I focus on the fundamentals of business. It’s how do I build lean-and-mean scalable high-value creation, great IP creation, great brand creation with the best talent for the content, very strong digital distribution, all distribution, partnerships with best partners in every silo, control pay and platform digital distribution and control the new generation of P&A which is social media marketing and viral. Those to me are the fundamentals.
DEADLINE: What do you think the perception of you is outside of China, specifically in Hollywood?
BRUNO WU: Well, I tend not to worry about what the perception is. I think people have their different views over different things. They have different opinions over different business models and over different business interests. And I think anybody who tries to follow the conventional Hollywood rule, will probably be better liked than the ones who try to think a little bit out of the box. That will probably be more likely the case for a foreigner. I think that’s all natural. Understandable. But we don’t worry about this. We worry primarily about the fundamentals of a business in the entertainment field.
DEADLINE: Which is?
WU: I’m about building a next-generation entertainment company that’s lean and mean and scalable. Building an ecosystem for the bigger Chinese movie scene. Exploring a new pathway and being a pioneer. As we say in Chinese, “Being the first brave man who has the guts to taste the crabs.” I see that there’s a very strong need to develop the next generation of film and TV companies. Which means that you have to be very highly concentrated only on IP and brand, and have a strong partnership with talent. I believe that IP is more people-driven than project-driven. That’s why I don’t buy the model of “hire somebody, write a script” – that you have an idea and then hire the people to go with it. I don’t do that. I’m very soon going to be announcing my deal with two of the top Chinese producers who just broke records like you wouldn’t believe. I invest in people. I think: people first, projects second. Also, you don’t have to do a lot of quantity. It’s the quality that counts. You don’t need these complicated development processes or very big overhead. You can outsource everything with every partner in every niche that’s highly specialized and are the best in the world. I’m happy to share. I like to work with the best people.
Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu in his recent interview with me touts ”a next-generation entertainment company that’s lean and mean and scalable. Building an ecosystem for the …
Over the course of a busy 15 months, Chinese media mogul Bruno Wu has announced a series of joint ventures and projects with Hollywood and UK partners. His latest announcement is a tie-up with French producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam (Grace Of Monaco). The pair’s Angel Storm will look to make action-based Euro-Chinese co-productions and franchises. Here’s the release:
Cannes – May 17, 2013 – Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Entertainment has formed a joint venture with French film mogul and producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam (Grace of Monaco, Hitman) and his company Stone Angels to form Angel Storm, which will develop and produce action-based European-Chinese co-productions and franchises. The first two projects identified are SHANGHAI, which will start production early next year and TRIANGLE.
The UK’s Pinewood Shepperton is the latest Western outfit to hook up with Chinese media mogul Bruno Wu via a joint-venture to finance and produce content in China for the global market. The 50/50 partnership with Wu’s Seven Stars Media Limited will be called Song Lin (Pinewood in Chinese) with each side initially putting up $1M for R&D on local business proposals. Those include co-production opportunities; training courses to be given by British institutions in Beijing and other cities; financing and related services for local productions; film-themed entertainment venues in Shanghai and regionally; and film-themed projects in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan. A UK chairman will be appointed.
This is the most recent announcement involving Wu in what’s been a busy 14 months. In February 2012, he burst onto Hollywood’s radar with plans for an $800M media and investment fund and subsequently formed a joint-venture with Fast Five helmer Justin Lin for a slate of films. He also outlined plans to build entertainment and media hub Chinawood in Tianjin with an investment of over $1.27B. Wu was then in Cannes to say he would back the John H. Lee remake of John Woo’s The Killer and in December hooked up with Avi Arad’s Arad Productions to develop superhero franchise properties inspired by Chinese history and mythology, starting with Rise Of The Terracotta Warriors. Those films along with Gong Li-starrer The Last Empress are in development.
Some industry insiders both in China and in Hollywood have been skeptical of Wu and his ambitious announcements, which so far don’t appear to have produced much tangible output. However, he is understood to be “incredibly well-connected politically” which foreigners believe cannot hurt in a territory like China, where the government retains a tight grip on the media.
Beijing/Los Angeles, December 11, 2012: Seven Stars Entertainment, led by Chairman Bruno Wu, will form a joint venture with prolific producer Avi Arad (The Amazing Spider Man, Iron Man) and his company Arad Productions, to develop superhero franchise properties which encompass live-action tent pole feature films, animated television series, and ultimately growing into merchandising, various digital platforms, and mobile applications. All of the stories are inspired by Chinese history and mythology. The first project, RISE OF THE TERRACOTTA WARRIORS is based on an original story idea by Arad and inspired by the history and mythology behind China’s legendary Terracotta Army sculptures which were created to protect China’s first emperor in his afterlife.
“Avi is a copious producer of fantasy, superheroes and sci-fi as well as one of the world’s top toy designers,” said Bruno Wu. “I think it’s important to provide the next generation with role models and Avi is the ideal partner to bring this Chinese myth to life in a multi media environment, including a major Chinese-US co-production tent pole movie.”
Avi Arad added: “Bruno and I share an affinity for Chinese history and culture and his knowledge will help guide me through this fascinating world of Chinese mythology. We are excited to introduce a new set of superheroes and other wonders of the world in a contemporary way to the Chinese youth and audiences around the world.”
Wu and Arad will serve as producers on the projects and Alexandra Bland from Arad Productions will executive produce. The deal was negotiated by Fred Milstein, Chief Executive Officer of Seven Stars Entertainment, on behalf of the company.
Beijing/Los Angeles, July 10, 2012: Seven Stars Film Studios (“SSFS”), a subsidiary of Seven Stars Entertainment Group led by Chairman Bruno Wu, announced today that SSFS will be the lead investor in a China-US co-production of The Last Empress. This epic English-language feature will bring together an Oscar-winning® team including producer Jake Eberts (GANDHI, DRIVING MISS DAISY, DANCES WITH WOLVES), writer Mr. Shen Yuhe (TOWARDS REPUBLIC) with producer Jeremy Thomas (THE LAST EMPEROR) as a consultant.
(Cannes) May 18, 2012 –– Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios (SSFS) has agreed to finance John Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Productions ‘THE KILLER’, the English language retelling of John Woo’s iconic 1989 action film. John H. Lee (A MOMENT TO REMEMBER, 71: INTO THE FIRE) will direct the script by Josh Campbell (ONE SQUARE MILE). Sarah Yan Li, China’s most promising rising star, will co-star in the thriller. Additionally, Li is a top graduate from China Central Academy of Performing Arts, China’s top performing art academy, and was recently selected as the spokesperson of China’s leading automaker Brilliance Automobile. Li is repped by CAA.
Lion Rock’s John Woo and Terence Chang will produce alongside Lion Rock’s Lori Tilkin, who will executive produce. Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars will finance the film which begins filming Q4 2012 in Toronto. Seven Stars’ CEO Fred Milstein closed the deal prior to Cannes.
Beijing/Hong Kong/Los Angeles, May 7, 2012: Bruno Wu, CEO Harvest Seven Stars Media Private Equity (HSSMPE) and Chairman of Seven Stars Global Entertainment (SSGE), the parent company of Seven Stars Film Studios (SSFS), today announced that Fred Milstein will become President, International, HSSMPE and Chief Executive Officer of Seven Stars Film Studios (SSFS), with immediate effect.
Milstein will be based in Los Angeles and will bring his considerable experience as a pioneer in finance and filmed entertainment to the East/West remit of HSSMPE and SSFS, with an oversight on all of their investment strategy and joint ventures outside of China. Milstein will report to Bruno Wu, Harvest’s Lindsay Wright and the HSSMPE board of directors.
Beijing/Los Angeles, April 30th, 2012: Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Entertainment and the Government of the Binhai New Area, Tianjin, today announced the establishment of the “Chinawood Global Services Base”, the largest filmed entertainment and media hub in China. Targeted at the US led Global industry, with an investment of over US$1.27billion/RMB 8billion across an area of eight hundred thousand square meters, “Chinawood” will be the headquarters for a large number of financial, technical and creative companies involved in the Global media world. Significantly, with around 35% of the investment earmarked for film financing, it will play a major role as a base for Chinese co-productions with North America, Europe and other countries across the Asia Pacific. The initial build comprising of 35,000 square meters of offices is nearing completion and will open in October 2012.
“Chinawood” will dramatically benefit Chinese co-productions but, equally, US production partners as recognised co-productions between the two are exempt from Chinese import quotas (currently 34 per annum), opening up the market to US filmmakers, whilst also building up a global infrastructure and opportunities for Chinese filmmakers, talent and financiers eager to invest in mainstream, commercial and tent-pole movies.
Co-productions receive a far greater share of the Chinese box-office than do the films qualifying under the import quota, at circa 41%-$44% instead of only up to 25%.
Beijing/Los Angeles, March 27, 2012: Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios has signed its second joint venture to create Allied Productions East with financier/producer Jake Eberts (‘GANDHI’, ‘DRIVING MISS DAISY’, ‘DANCES WITH WOLVES’, ‘A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT’, ‘CHICKEN RUN’).
Beijing/Los Angeles, March 19th, 2012: Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios has signed a joint venture with acclaimed director Justin Lin (‘BETTER LUCK TOMORROW’, ‘FAST AND FURIOUS: FAST FIVE’) to form Perfect Storm Entertainment.
Justin Lin will partner with Bruno Wu: Chairman of Seven Stars Global Entertainment (SSGE), the parent company of Seven Stars Film Studios; and CEO of Harvest Seven Stars Media Private Equity Ltd (HSSMPEG) to create a slate of films.
UPDATE, 4:04 AM: The official press release from Harvest Seven Stars Media Fund detailing its investment areas is below.
PREVIOUS, 2:56 AM: Last month, I reported on a group of Chinese investors said to be “scouring” Hollywood for acquisitions. That consortium, led by Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu along with Harvest Global Investment and Pacific Alliance Group, was eyeing a big target after holding preliminary talks with Summit ahead of its acquisition by Lionsgate. Companies thought to be in the consortium’s sights included Lionsgate and Miramax. Today, The New York Times reports that Wu and his wife Yang Lan, a well-known Chinese TV personality, are joining Harvest Fund Management via their Sun Media Group to create Harvest Seven Stars Media Private Equity, an $800 million fund to invest in existing entertainment companies, provide backing for filmmakers and build a distribution system in China and elsewhere.
China is booming right now amid a 30% surge in box office in 2011 and expectations that receipts will reach $5 billion in the next few years. According to the Times report, Wu said he and his partners are eager to bring blockbuster-style films into China by participating in big-scale co-productions. And, Wu’s not ruling out a Reliance-like investment in a Hollywood company. Asked if the new fund would back a company as big as DreamWorks, the media entrepreneur answered in a word, “Yes.” The NYT says CAA is advising the fund via its Beijing office with several deals with producers nearing completion. “The goal is pretty straightforward; it’s to make a maximum return, of course, for the investors,” Wu told the newspaper.