Dalian Wanda Group executive Jack Gao, who had been leading the Chinese conglomerate’s film subsidiary Legendary Entertainment, has stepped down from his job, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Gao was senior vice president of Wanda’s cultural industry group, where he served a key role in overseeing the company’s entertainment acquisitions and investments. He had been Legendary’s interim chief executive since founder Thomas Tull left the firm in January.
The departure of Gao reflects the struggles Wanda has faced in its attempts to break into the entertainment business by investing in U.S. companies. The Chinese government has cracked down severely on overseas investments, especially in media and entertainment. Wanda wanted to buy Dick Clark Productions earlier this year, for example, but backed off when the deal came under government scrutiny.
China’s clampdown limited what Gao could do in the entertainment business, a knowledgeable person not authorized to comment said late Monday. Zeng Maojun, head of Wanda Film Holding Co., will step in as interim chief of Legendary, known for “The Dark Knight” and “Kong: Skull Island,” this person said.
Wanda bought Legendary for a reported $3.5 billion last year. The incursion of billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Chinese property giant into Hollywood began in 2012 with the $2.6-billion purchase of theater chain AMC Entertainment.
Legendary is set to release its next movie, “Pacific Rim Uprising,” in March. Mary Parent remains the Burbank-based company’s head of production.
Wanda has also retreated from its ambitious plans to build a massive studio project in China, a proposed $7.3-billion Qingdao Movie Metropolis complex.