China’s Recon buys $100M majority stake in Millennium Films

China's Recon buys $100M majority stake in Millennium Films

HONG KONG — China’s footprint in Hollywood is expanding following a wire and cable maker’s purchase of a controlling stake in independent studio Millennium Films, which produced “Rambo” and “The Expendables.”

Recon Holding said Thursday it is taking a 51 per cent stake in Millennium for $100 million.

The company, based in Yixing near Shanghai, is controlled by Tony Xia, who was a little-known businessman until last year, when he bought struggling English soccer club Aston Villa with ambitious plans to turn it around.

The terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter, give Recon majority ownership of Millennium and its library of 300 films.

The studio is known for its action titles, which include 2008’s “Rambo,” the fourth installment of the Sylvester Stallone action franchise, “The Expendables” series, and “London Has Fallen.”

Chinese investors and Hollywood studios have been in a frenzy of deal-making in recent years as both sides seek to expand in each other’s movie industries.

Chinese companies are hoping to gain filmmaking expertise as well as beef up the country’s global cultural influence, also known as “soft power.” Hollywood, meanwhile, covets China’s strong box office revenue growth as domestic earnings stagnate.

In the past year, Chinese companies have sealed deals with entertainment companies including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Amblin Partners and Dick Cook Studios.

Xia owns Recon Holding through his conglomerate Recon Group. One of its companies, Lotus Health Group, is the world’s second biggest maker of food additive monosodium glutamate. Another subsidiary makes digital hardware for urban infrastructure.

Xia’s made a splash with his $87 million purchase of Aston Villa because the businessman, who studied at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had no soccer credentials.

Kelvin Chan, The Associated Press