Businesswoman Zhang Lan just received the boot from the restaurant company she herself had founded 15 years ago ago. In the latest updated information site of South Beauty restaurant, it no longer listed the name of Zhang Lan as their chairwoman nor even as one of their board members. A representative from South Beauty also confirmed that the 56-year old businesswoman is no longer a part of their company.
It can be recalled that since early this year, Zhang Lan has been involved in a legal dispute with CVC Capital Partners on some financial matters with regards to the restaurant. Last year the London-based private equity group bought 83% worth of stocks from her company to become its major shareholder. Initially, Zhang Lan agreed to invest the money that CVC had paid her into South Beauty. However, CVC later claimed that they had no idea where she put that money since she didn’t invest it into the company as what they had initially agreed upon.
With lack of available funds to maintain South Beauty, rumors were rife that CVC has now sold their shares to a bank company. Allegedly, the said bank company has already sent a group to manage the restaurant chain.
South Beauty restaurant has been in deep financial crisis since 2008. So far, more than 10 of its branches have closed down in China since early this year, in addition to the dozen or more branches that closed down last year.
Her son Wang Xiao Fei issued a statement today saying it was his mother’s voluntary decision to sell all her remaining shares in South Beauty because she was tired of managing her restaurant business and just wanted to take a rest from it. She also wanted to focus on their next endeavor which is starting a hotel business. Earlier this year, Xiao Fei has invested approximately NTD 500 million in building two resort hotels in Taiwan.
I don’t buy her reason for giving up on South Beauty. Back in 2013, she mentioned during her interview with Forbes magazine that it was her dream for South Beauty to become a 100-year brand name, a common goal among business people in China. She even gave up her Chinese citizenship for the sake of her restaurant business. Why give up on that dream so suddenly? It’s sad to think how easily a dream can die once greed and corruption step in.
I believe that Zhang Lan is no fool. She knew for a long time that her company was already on the brink of financial collapse and there’s no way for her to save it anymore. Even if the court had ordered the freezing of her assets, for all we know she could have already transferred a sizable amount of her fortune to her son’s name. Where else would he took that big amount of money he invested in their new hotel business? Yeah, a smart monkey never puts all her eggs in just one basket. As of the moment, both mother and son have bad reps in China, at least in the corporate world. Taiwan is now a perfect place for them to start anew, where they have a clean business record.
I can’t help but think back when Xiao Fei married Barbie Hsu in a flash wedding in 2010, there were rumors going around then that it was a smart business move from both mother and son. It can be recalled that Xiao Fei was in a stable relationship back then with Chinese actress Kitty Zhang before he suddenly broke up with her and married the Taiwanese actress a few months later. Barbie was their perfect ticket to Taiwan, someone who’s well known in that country and with enough money too to tide them over during any financial storm. Not to mention her desperation to get married and start her own family during that time. Go figure.