Chinese investment firm Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. signed on Tuesday an agreement to acquire Legendary Entertainment in a deal valued at $3.5 billion.
The deal for the Burbank film, television and digital content producer is the largest cross-border acquisition by a Chinese company and makes Wanda’s film division the highest revenue-generating film company in the world.
Legendary founder and Chief Executive Thomas Tull will remain in charge of day-to-day operations. Combining Legendary with Wanda Group creates a completely new international entertainment company, Tull said.
“There is an ever-growing demand for quality entertainment content worldwide, particularly in China, and we will combine our respective strengths to bring an even better entertainment experience to the world’s audiences,” Tull added in a prepared statement.
Tull founded Legendary in 2005 with $500 million from multiple financial backers and built it into a Hollywood powerhouse by producing such film franchises as “The Dark Knight” and “The Hangover” films, and last summer’s blockbuster, “Jurassic World.” The company got a distribution agreement with Warner Bros. Entertainment that expired in 2013 and now has a five-year co-financing and distribution deal with Universal Pictures, the NBCUniversal Inc. studio in Universal City.
Tull was quoted in Variety Tuesday saying the acquisition by Wanda Group would not change Legendary’s relationship with Universal.
“(Universal) have been very supportive of this deal (with Wanda). They just see the family growing and us having the resources behind us,” Tull told Variety.
With an ownership stake in Legendary, Dalian, controlled by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, can extend its foothold in the entertainment industry. The Chinese company already owns AMC Entertainment Holdings, the second-largest movie theater chain in North America.