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Adam Minter

Chinese Companies With No Heir Apparent

Entrepreneurs' children don't want to take over. What's Plan B?
Empty chair at the big desk.

Empty chair at the big desk.

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group and China’s richest man, has just one child, 27-year-old Wang Sicong. That would seem to make the question of succession at the privately-held Wanda a simple matter. The problem is, the younger Wang -- a notorious playboy with an obnoxious Sina Weibo social media feed that he keeps on behalf of his dog (including photos of the pet wearing gold Apple Watch Editions) -- doesn't seem prepared to take up his birthright leading the conglomerate, which develops commercial property and owns AMC theaters. In 2012, the elder Wang said of his shiftless son: “If he can make himself accepted by everyone [at Wanda] in the next five to eight years, he will succeed me. If he doesn’t have that ability, he won’t.”

Wang Sicong is part of a broader challenge facing the Chinese government. In a speech in mid-May, President Xi Jinping turned his atttention to the generation of pleasure-seeking business scions -- or “fuerdai,” as they’re known -- and called for a national effort to “make them appreciate where money comes from.”