When Thomas Cook, the storied British travel agency that filed for bankruptcy on Monday, needed financial help in recent years, it turned to the Chinese investment firm Fosun International.
Since 2015, the Shanghai-based conglomerate and its chairman, Guo Guangchang, have built up a controlling stake in Thomas Cook, The Guardian reported. The stake was worth as much as $1.5 billion in recent weeks, according to regulatory filings compiled by Bloomberg, before the company became officially insolvent on Monday.
By August, Fosun and Thomas Cook had managed to agree on a deal that would give Fosun 75% control of Thomas Cook's tour business and 25% of its airline, Reuters reported at the time. However, that deal fell through in September, The Guardian reported, as new debts piled up near the end of the summer holiday season.
Thomas Cook is far from Fosun's only stake in Western companies as 52-year-old Guangchang seeks to emulate American "oracle" Warren Buffett. It also owns major stakes in France's competing tour agency Club Med, Cirque du Soleil, an English football club the Wolverhampton Wanderers, insurance and real-estate companies, and more.
"Our goal is very clear. We need to create a Buffett-style investment company, rooted in China but with global capabilities," he told the BBC in a 2014 interview.
Still, he has plenty of room to run. Forbes estimates Guangchang's wealth at $6.3 billion, making him the 41st-richest person in China. For comparison, Buffett is worth an estimated 10 times more, roughly $82.5 billion.
- Roughly 600,000 travelers are stranded around the world after British travel provider Thomas Cook declared bankruptcy.
- Boris Johnson says he refused £150 million bailout for Thomas Cook because it risked 'moral hazard' for other firms
- Passengers share vacation disasters from the Thomas Cook collapse, including a ruined $41,000 wedding and 'being held hostage' by angry staff at a Tunisian hotel
- The UK expects to spend £100 million flying back stranded Thomas Cook passengers, which is only £50 million less than bailing out the company
- A Thomas Cook flight attendant says she only learned that she lost her job with the company's collapse from Facebook