HNA Group, a private Chinese conglomerate which struck more foreign investment deals last year than all but one Chinese company, is eyeing a controlling stake in the publisher of Forbes magazine, according to Reuters.
HNA may be one of several Chinese bidders for the media company, which three years ago was sold to a group of Hong Kong investors for a reported $415 million; the Forbes family retained a 5% stake. That relationship has been acrimonious: the Forbes side sued the Hong Kong investors for failing to make an initial deal payment; the Hong Kong investors responded that they were not told of tens of millions of dollars worth of company liabilities before the purchase.
HNA’s interest in the media company comes just as conglomerate has emerged as one of China’s most aggressive investors. It spent $26 billion on foreign deals last year, according to Dealogic. Over the last few years it has bought stakes in Hilton and Carlson Hotels, Virgin Australia, the tech firm Ingram Micro, and SkyBridge Capital, a hedge fund company founded by Anthony Scaramucci, who prominently campaigned for President Trump.
HNA founder Chen Feng is a former People’s Liberation Army employee who has grown the company from a tiny provincial airline that earned an early investment from George Soros, into a conglomerate that ranked 353 in the latest Fortune Global 500 list, with $29 billion in sales.