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Wang Jianlin Boosts His Influence In Hollywood With Legendary Deal

Wang Jianlin has long been one of China's most powerful businessmen, a former military man who made his fortune in real estate.

Now he is poised to become one of the most influential players in Hollywood.

The chairman of Dalian Wanda Group on Tuesday announced a deal to acquire Legendary Entertainment, one of the production companies behind "The Dark Knight," "Jurassic World" and "Godzilla" movies.

The $3.5-billion acquisition represents the largest by a Chinese firm of a U.S. production company. What's more, the deal gives 61-year-old Wang, the richest man in China, a new level of influence over Hollywood's cultural landscape and his country's ability to project "soft power" around the world.

"We have to have a position in the global industry," Wang said at a news conference here to formally announce the Legendary purchase, which was first reported last week. "And a few American movie companies have these commanding heights of the movie industry in the world. We want to change this situation and the landscape."

He's been working hard in recent years to do that, scooping up a trove of other media and entertainment businesses. In 2015, Wanda acquired a 20% stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid for $52 million, bought Swiss sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media for $1.2 billion and purchased World Triathlon Corp. of Tampa, Fla., for $900 million.

Wang has also steadily built his presence in Los Angeles. In 2014, his company bought the site of the former Robinsons-May department store in Beverly Hills for $420 million, and has plans for a mixed-use development there. He's also donated $20 million to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for its new film museum.

"He is building credibility so that when he expresses interest, you know it is going somewhere, it is not just talk," said USC political science professor Stanley Rosen, a Chinese film expert.