The Chairman of China’s Anbang Insurage Group, which owns the Waldorf=Astoria New York and other hotels in the U.S. and which tried to buy Starwood ultimately being outbid by Marriott, has reportedly been detained.
Waldorf=Astoria New York, Credit: Hilton
Like many Chinese companies of its size, it’s both politically connected and opaque.
Wu Xiaohui is married to Deng Xiaoping’s granddaughter. Anbang director Chen Xiaolu’s father was a military commander who served Mao Zedong. Levin Zhu, son of a former Chinese Premier, has been listed as an Anbang director though has publicly said he never agreed to be on the board.
Anbang says that its Chairman is ‘temporarily unable to perform duties’ while there are reports of his detention.
On Monday, the magazine Caijing reported that Wu, who founded Anbang in 2004 and built it into one of China’s biggest insurers, was detained last week by insurance regulators. Citing unidentified sources, it said authorities told the company about the detention but gave no reason.
It’s difficult to know what’s really behind this. Explanations include vague references to limiting financial risk and to China’s anti-corruption efforts. However there are likely political motivations, concerns of foreign investment which takes capital outside of China when the country is trying to prop up its economy (don’t trust economic statistics out of China).
A year ago Anbang was reportedly considering buying IHG hotels.