Jack Gao Set to Leave China’s Wanda, Legendary Entertainment

Senior vice president of Dalian Wanda Group is exiting the company

Jack Gao, the interim CEO of Legendary Entertainment, is leaving that position and stepping down from his executive job at Legendary parent Dalian Wanda Group.

Gao, the senior vice president of billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Wanda, will hand over control to Zeng Maojun, president of Wanda Film Holding Co., according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The move follows up a year of tumultuous change with founder Thomas Tull having exited the company in January. The CEO position has been vacant since, with Gao filling in while a string of veteran Hollywood operators have been floated for the position. An individual close to Wanda told TheWrap Gao left due to government policies that have cracked down on overseas investment, and it was an amicable split. The individual also said Wanda is committed to Legendary and Hollywood for the long term and is still looking for a permanent CEO.

A representative from Dalian Wanda Group did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Previously, Gao was senior vice president for News Corporation. His prior roles included serving as CEO, NWS China Investments; CEO, Star TV China Co.; chairman, MySpace China and chief representative, NWS Beijing Representative Office, according to the Wanda Studios website.

Before then, he was president and general manager of Microsoft China, general partner of Walden International, a leading venture capital firm in U.S., and corporate vice president and president of Emerging Geographies for Autodesk Inc., where he directed all operations in Greater China and India.

Dalian Wanda Group owns AMC Theatres as well as Legendary, but its $1 billion bid for Dick Clark Productions fell apart earlier this year in the midst of a regulatory crackdown. After a Wild West period where Chinese firms invested in entertainment companies at eye-popping valuations — like Wanda shelling out $3.5 billion for Legendary — the country’s regulators made it harder for cash to leave the country and moved to restrict entertainment deals specifically. Since then, Wanda has largely retreated, selling off its theme park business and 76 hotels to fellow Chinese firms.

And in August, the Chinese conglomerate was hit with reports claiming that its billionaire chairman, Wang Jianlin, was prevented from leaving China, which the company called “groundless.” The company went on to file lawsuits against several accounts on WeChat (China’s leading social media platform), including “Financial Bread,” “Dimeng Smart Transportation,” “New People Magazine” and “Three Board of Telecommunications” and Weibo (blogging) accounts including “Coyote-Abraham,” “Asia News Weekly,” “Shangqizhuang,” “Peaceful Mouth,” “Wu Xiaowei, “Iebrun” and others. 

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report the news.