Beijing Takes Over Anbang, Insurer That Owns Waldorf Astoria

BEIJING — The Chinese government said on Friday that it had seized control of Anbang Insurance, the troubled Chinese company that owns the Waldorf Astoria hotel and other marquee properties around the world, and charged its former chairman with economic crimes.

The move is Beijing’s biggest effort yet to rein in a new kind of Chinese company, in this case one that spent billions of dollars around the world over the past three years buying up hotels and other high-profile properties. The rise of these companies illustrated China’s growing economic might, but Chinese officials had grown increasingly concerned that they were piling up debt to make frivolous purchases.

It also caps the downfall of Anbang’s leader, Wu Xiaohui. Mr. Wu had married a granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader in the 1980s and a towering figure in Chinese politics, and was widely considered politically connected. But he was detained in June, suggesting that any political sway he might have once held had ebbed.

Anbang had also come under scrutiny in the United States and elsewhere for its opaque ownership structure.

China’s insurance regulator said in a notice dated Friday that Anbang would be overseen for a year by a group that included China’s central bank, its securities and banking regulators, the country’s foreign exchange regulator and other government agencies. It said the business would operate as usual.

“The takeover management team will take effective measures to keep the company operating as usual and ensure that the legitimate rights and interests of consumers are fully protected and lawfully safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of all stakeholders,” the insurance regulator said.

The move will put the Waldorf Astoria, for decades a symbol of New York elegance, under the control of the Chinese government. Anbang in recent years also purchased the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, the Loews Santa Monica hotel in California and the Fairmont Chicago hotel, among other properties. Anbang offered more than $13 billion for Starwood Hotels and Resorts before abandoning its bid in 2016.

Mr. Wu, Anbang’s chief, had sought to extend his political ties in the United States. In November 2016, he met with Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and a top adviser of President Trump, in a bid to buy a stake in a Manhattan office building partly owned by Mr. Kushner’s family company. The deal was eventually abandoned after media coverage.