Business & Technology

Wu Xiaohui

From obscurity to riches — and ownership of an American landmark.

Chairman and chief executive, Anbang Insurance Group

On Nov. 16, shortly after Donald Trump’s history-making election-night upset, the Chairman of China’s Anbang insurance sat across the table from the President-elect’s son in law, Jared Kushner. It was the continuation of negotiations began months earlier over Anbang’s acquisition of 666 5th Avenue, a property owned by Kushner Companies, and while the talks were later abandoned, they thrust Wu back into U.S. headlines. In 2014, his company had acquired the Waldorf Astoria, an iconic hotel in Manhattan that has hosted celebrities from Frank Sinatra to the Duke of Windsor, not to mention every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover. The Waldorf carried a price tag of $1.95 billion, the largest acquisition of U.S. real estate ever made by a Chinese buyer.

Despite its swelling coffers, Anbang is barely a decade old. Wu, a founding shareholder, has leveraged his powerful network — which includes his wife, the granddaughter of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping — to transform what started as a humble car insurance firm into an international investment giant. Few know much about the shadowy Anbang, which is ultimately controlled by “a welter of shell companies … almost all obscure,” according to a New York Times investigation. That hasn’t stopped it from becoming a company powerful enough to have the ear of one of the U.S. president’s top advisors.

(Photo credit: Ben Asen/International Insurance Society)

Next: Jiang Lizhang i|i Business & Technology