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Chinese insurance tycoon detained

14 Juin 2017

A Chinese business news magazine says the chairman of the insurance company that bought New York City's Waldorf Hotel has been detained by regulators. The article, citing unnamed sources, was taken down shortly after it was posted online. No other details were provided.

But after a spate of successful dealmaking worth over $30 billion, Anbang ran into problems recently, including rumours about its chairman, failure to close a handful of investments, and criticisms about the firm's governance.

When asked if Wu was within China or if he could be reached, a spokesperson for Anbang said the company has nothing to add at this point. While Anbang's statement didn't respond directly to Tuesday evening's media report, it confirmed weeks of speculation that Wu, a high-profile billionaire who married a granddaughter of former Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, has been in trouble.

Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Wu Xiaohui was detained Friday.

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The vertiginous rise has also brought unwanted attention. As a result, the unit of Anbang was barred from issuing new products for three months. Its planned $1.6 billion takeover of USA annuities and life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life collapsed in April after failing to get the required US regulatory approval.

Anbang became embroiled in a rare and public war of words last month with a leading Chinese business magazine about the insurer's ownership structure.

Anbang denied accusations in April by another magazine, Caixin, that it improperly used payments from policyholders as capital. Anbang, in response, called the descriptions "malicious" and "inaccurate" and has threatened to sue.

Described by those who know him as smart and passionate, Wu is politically connected in China and has also cultivated relationships on Wall Street with the likes of private equity giant Blackstone Group LP (BX.N), despite speaking little English.

Chinese insurance tycoon detained