Anbang Insurance Group, one of China's most aggressive buyers of overseas assets, has said that its Chairman Wu Xiaohui was no longer able to fulfil his duties because of personal reasons.
The brief statement was released late on Tuesday night, just hours after the Chinese business publication Caijing reported that Mr Wu had been taken away by the authorities last Friday for investigation. It also followed denials that the company made over a week ago that Mr Wu had been barred from leaving the country.
Anbang said that Mr Wu's duties would be managed by other senior executives, and that its business was operating normally. No other details were provided.
Caijing reported on Tuesday that the CIRC had met the company’s executives on Saturday and informed them that Wu had been taken away, although detailed reasons were not given. The Caijing story was deleted hours after it was published. The article said Mr Wu was detained as part of a Chinese government investigation into Anbang.
Established in 2004 by Mr Wu as an automotive and property insurer, Anbang has achieved prominence for its aggressive investments overseas, including its 2015 purchase of New York's landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Last month, Anbang Life Insurance was barred by the CIRC from issuing new products for three months. The life insurer, a key part of Anbang Insurance Group, was cited for "disrupting market order" by designing a product that bypassed regulations aimed at curbing growth of short-term, risky universal life insurance products, the CIRC said. The sale of universal life products catapulted Anbang Life into the topmost ranks of life insurers in China in terms of premiums in recent years.
A proposed US$1.6-billion takeover of US annuities and life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life collapsed in April after failing to get the required US regulatory approval because the company could not answer detailed questions on its shareholding structure.
Anbang had also engaged in a public war of words with a leading Chinese business magazine, Caixin, about the insurer's ownership structure. In an article published in April, the magazine had described Anbang's structure as "opaque" and said its funding was a "maze" of capital flow involving more than 100 firms. Anbang, in response, called the descriptions "malicious" and "inaccurate" and has threatened to sue.