Huge stake in major Chinese conglomerate was held simply as a favor, dealmaker says


The attention on the company’s ownership has had a “terrible” impact on the group by impeding its ability to raise funds and has brought him great stress, Bhise said.

Banks he has long worked with have called him to say they needed to respond to questions from U.S. regulators about who he is, he added.

“I have had a very, very stressful year,” he said. HNA, which owns airlines, hotels, real estate and a near 10 percent stake in Germany’s Deutsche Bank, has denied Guo’s allegations and has sued
for defamation.

It declined to comment for this story.

Little is known about Guan, the other holder of shares that were transferred, and Bhise said he has not met him. Reuters was unable to track down Guan to seek comment, and when asked HNA did not provide a phone number or email address for him.

“Is the Chinese government a shareholder, somehow mysteriously cloaked behind me and Guan Jun and other people? I can tell you unequivocally that I don’t believe that to be the case,” Bhise said.

After HNA’s restructuring, the New York-based foundation and a China-based charity collectively hold 52.25 percent of HNA shares. A dozen founding and senior executives hold 47.5 percent in the group, led by HNA’s founding chairmen, Chen Feng and Wang Jian.

Bhise said he held the shares from about 2004 and his understanding from the start with HNA’s management was that the shares would one day be given to charities or HNA employees.

HNA holds 1.2 trillion yuan ($180.4 billion) worth of assets, according to the company’s latest filings, and Bhise said he had previously held approximately a 12.5 percent stake in HNA as the beneficial shareholder of Headstreams Investment Co, a Hong Kong registered firm.

Bhise also said he was director of Pan American Holdings, another HNA vehicle, but was not a shareholder. Various corporate filings show Bhise as a Pan American shareholder, and with a 17.4 percent interest in HNA.

It was not immediately clear why there was a discrepancy between the size of the stake that Bhise said he held and the size shown in the filings.

Bhise said the shares had “no value” for him and he received no payment for holding them.

“This was an accommodation that I did because I am a trusted person,” he said. “I didn’t do anything that I believe was in any way wrong.”

HNA’s board reclaimed the shares from him in 2016 after broaching the idea in 2015, he said.

HNA’s founders and top management want to ensure their shares are signed over to the charities when they die, Bhise said.

“The senior management are devout Buddhists,” he said. “They always had the intent that life is transitional, money is transitional, it should not go from generation to generation.”

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