If shareholders in Carmike Cinemas vote on Tuesday to accept a $1.2 billion takeover proposal from AMC Entertainment Holdings, China's richest man—Wang Jianlin—will own the world's largest movie theater chain.
That's because the construction and theme park mogul Wang controls the Dalian Wanda Group, which bought the AMC theater chain in 2012 for $2.6 billion. The combination of AMC with Carmike, along with AMC's planned $650 million purchase of the European chain Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, would take AMC to some 900 theater locations, making it the world's largest, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Wang has made no secret of his desire to move into the international entertainment market. He agreed to buy Dick Clark Productions for $1 billion less than two weeks ago, and back in January he inked a $3.5 billion deal for Legendary Entertainment, the movie studio that has produced and co-financed a variety of films, like Pacific Rim and The Dark Knight.
Carmike shareholders are expected to approve the deal, the Journal reports, but Wang's offer for the chain—and his move into U.S. entertainment industry—hasn't been without controversy.
AMC's first offer for Carmike, of about $1.1 billion, was met with a cold shoulder from shareholders, and the offer to push the deal forward.
Chinese control of AMC has also hit resistance in Washington. As Fortune's Matthew Ingram wrote several weeks ago:
In September, a group of congressmen sent a letter calling for the new Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to review Chinese acquisitions of large U.S. media companies, based on the same kind of national security criteria that it uses when assessing aerospace and other deals.
The letter specifically referred to Wanda’s recent acquisitions, which the representatives in question said have heightened “concerns about China’s efforts to censor topics and exert propaganda controls on American media.”
A Washington, D.C., lobbyist named Richard Berman has also fought against Wanda Dalian's expansion in the U.S., the Journal notes. He paid for billboards that call AMC "China's Red Puppet" and organized demonstrations at Carmike theaters.
AMC's CEO, Adam Aron, has pushed back against such red scare tactics, however. He told the Journal that AMC was an “American company led by American management from Leawood, Kan., which is about as American as you can get.”