Xu Wenrong is pictured at Hengdian World Studios. [Photo/zj.zjol.com.cn]
Xu Wenrong, born in 1935, is the founder and former president of Hengdian Group, which runs Hengdian World Studios, the largest film and TV drama shooting base in the world.
Hengdian Group traces its origin to a rundown State-owned silk reeling mill that Xu acquired in 1975 in Hengdian town, Dongyang, Zhejiang province. It has now become a privately-owned conglomerate that controls six listed corporations, as well as some 200 factories and service firms, employing more than 50,000 people. In 2019, it generated 85 billion yuan ($13 billion) in operating revenue and 10.24 billion yuan in exports.
Xu has maintained low-key attitude towards his personal success. In 2000, Xu ranked 8th, with an estimated wealth of 2.7 billion yuan, on the Hurun China Rich List, a widely accepted ranking of the wealthiest individuals in China. Seeing this, Xu invited Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher for the Hurun Report, to Hengdian and persuaded Hoogewerf not to include him on the annual list any more.
"I told him that Hengdian is a unique collectively-owned enterprise. Its wealth was far more than what was counted on the list, but I am definitely not that wealthy personally," Xu said in media interviews.
However, Xu is probably behind one of the most eye-catching business in the world, with one fourth of Chinese movies, one third of Chinese TV series, and two thirds of Chinese costume dramas being shot in Hengdian World Studios every year.
The company formed a relationship with the film and TV industry by chance when famed director Xie Jin called for the building of sets for the film The Opium War in 1996. With Xu's approval and support, Hengdian Group created a 19th-century Guangzhou street in just over four months, which later developed into the world's largest film studio.