The chairman of Anbang Insurance Group — which pulled out of negotiations to redevelop Kushner Companies’ 666 Fifth Avenue — turned over his duties for “personal reasons” amid new claims that he has been detained by Chinese authorities.
In a one-sentence statement, the company said Chairman Wu Xiaohui was “for personal reasons no longer able to perform his duties.”
But the company did not address news reports that Wu had been detained by Chinese authorities, an assertion first made by the Chinese magazine Caijing on Tuesday. That article ricocheted around social media sites before the post was deleted. A company executive and a business partner of Anbang, however, confirmed his detention to the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal later reported a special investigative team that looks into economic crimes was behind the detainment.
Anbang, which claims to have $300 billion in assets, denied similar rumors in April, when social media reports stated Wu was being questioned by Chinese insurance regulators, who later banned some of the insurer’s riskier products. To quiet the rumors, Wu gave an interview to the state-run Beijing News. A month later, Anbang filed suit against Chinese investigative magazine Caixin in response to an article questioning the company’s transparency and capital structure.
Other business leaders in China have also been detained as the government cracks down on corruption, but also pressures businesses to keep corporate money in China, especially the insurance sector. Some business executives who have been detained by Chinese officials have been released within a few days, but others have been held for months without any charges being filed.
Wu is married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiapoing, the country’s paramount leader in the 1980s. Anbang’s board also includes a number of relatives of powerful party leaders.
The company, which purchased the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for nearly $2 billion in 2014, backed out of negotiations in March to redevelop Kushner’s 666 Fifth Avenue following questions of potential conflicts. It also dropped a $13 billion bid to acquire Starwood Hotels and Resorts after regulators scrutinized its opaque operating structure. [NYT] — E.B. Solomont