The Shanghai investment giant with connections to the Chinese Communist government is downplaying its purchase of Grouse Mountain.
The McLaughlin family asked $200 million for the beloved North Vancouver resort. The Globe and Mail reported July 12 that China Minsheng Investment Group (CMIG) made a deal to buy it.
A news release timed for July 18 — when NDP Premier John Horgan’s swearing-in dominated British Columbia headlines — said CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. is the new owner of GM Resorts LP, and it claims to be 60% Canadian-owned.
Public records obtained by theBreaker show that CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. was incorporated Nov. 21, 2016 as 1097351 B.C. Ltd. with Kang Yu Canning Zou as the sole director.
Zou’s address is a $7.6 million-assessed, Shaughnessy mansion near the People’s Republic of China consular compound in South Granville. The property deed was registered in 2009 by businessman Wei Zou and homemaker Xia Yu.
1097351 B.C. Ltd. became CM (Canada) Asset Management Co. Ltd. on March 8, when a second director was added: Liao Feng. According to the CMIG website, Liao is the assistant president of CMIG and CEO of CMIG International. He uses Laurence as his English first name.
Six days later, on March 14, GM Resorts LP registered. Both GM Resorts LP and CM (Canada) are registered at the Bentall Centre office of law firm Fasken Martineau.
“We act for both state-owned enterprises and private-sector companies coming from China,” says the Fasken website. “We have advised Chinese companies investing in the resource sector around the world, particularly in mining, energy, oil and gas, Canadian oil sands, renewable and nuclear energy. We also work with Chinese companies involved in life sciences, aviation, communications and other industries.”
Edmond Luke is the director of Fasken’s China practice. He did not immediately respond to theBreaker.
None of the corporate records show the ownership structure of Grouse Mountain or its buyer. There is no legal requirement for a company to disclose such information to the Canadian public.
In a report last December called No Reason To Hide: Unmasking the Anonymous Owners of Canadian Companies and Trusts, Transparency International Canada urged Canadian governments to mandate the reporting of beneficial ownership in order to curb money laundering and tax evasion.
“In Canada, more rigorous identity checks are done for individuals getting library cards than for those setting up companies,” the TI report said. “Corporate registries do not verify identification and most do not require information on shareholders, let alone beneficial owners. Most provinces also allow nominee directors and shareholders, who do not need to disclose that they are acting on someone else’s behalf.”
CMIG was born in 2014 on orders from Premier Li Keqiang with RMB50 billion (nearly $9 billion) from 59 founding companies.
The CMIG website sets out the company philosophy: “By fully utilizing the technology, brand, and resource advantages of developed countries, and the tremendous opportunities of ‘Going Global and Bringing in’ brought by the development potentials of countries along the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ route, CMIG guides Chinese private capital to go abroad together, and promotes industrial upgrading and economic transformation.”
In a 2015 South China Morning Post interview, Liao was quoted saying his company was taking a cautious approach to foreign expansion. “We hope we could learn gradually even if we may pay premium prices for our projects abroad,” Liao said. “But we will try to minimize the prices we pay.”
CMIG senior leaders are veterans of China’s political elite. Board chair Dong Wenbiao was a member of the 10th and 11th National Commitee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and a member of the standing committee of the 12th CPPCC national committee. President and CEO Li Huaizhen was a Deputy to the 11th National People’s Congress.
The Grouse Mountain acquisition corresponds with national political and economic objectives. Chinese president Xi Jinping has encouraged tycoons to invest in sports and recreation, because he wants China’s sports industry to be worth RMB 5 Trillion (nearly $1 billion) by 2025.
In 2022, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics.
That the formal announcement came the same day as the end of the BC Liberals’ 16-year dynasty may not have been a coincidence. Both Fasken and Grouse’s outgoing owner, Stuart McLaughlin, are major supporters of the party. Horgan’s NDP minority government is under public pressure to further regulate B.C.’s real estate market and enact anti-money laundering measures. The new attorney general is David Eby, whose Point Grey riding is riddled with multimillion-dollar houses registered to housewives and students with obvious mainland Chinese names.
Fasken donated $382,785 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2016. Grouse Mountain Resorts CEO McLaughlin donated $136,730 to the party. Since September 2013, McLaughlin has been the provincially appointed chair of B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Crown corporation that operates B.C. Place Stadium and the Vancouver Convention Centre.