Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains gave the green light to the foreign takeover of Canadian nursing home chain, Retirement Concepts by a subsidiary of Beijing-based Anbang Insurance Group in 2017. Shortly thereafter, B.C.’s former Health Minister Terry Lake announced the province had granted licenses to Anbang’s subsidiary to own the senior homes. Pacific Reach Properties, an affiliate of the company that sold the nursing home chain, committed to operating the facilities for three years and may have retained a minority stake.
Prior to the sale, reports had already surfaced that Anbang was under scrutiny in China. Even before Minister Bains approved these two takeovers, questions were raised about Anbang’s “murky ownership” and close ties with China’s government officials. Several months after Anbang obtained Canadian approvals, the CEO of Anbang was detained by Chinese government authorities. In 2018, one year after Minister Bains and former B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake gave the thumbs up, Anbang was seized by the Chinese government and brought under state control after its CEO was sentenced to 18 years in prison for fraud and embezzlement. The Chinese government now holds a 98 per-cent stake in Anbang (now Dajia).
Retirement Concepts includes 20 senior living facilities in B.C., 2 in Alberta and 1 in Quebec.
Minister Bains also approved the foreign takeover of InnVest Hotels by Bluesky Hotels, which is owned by a shell company and potentially tied to Anbang. Anbang actually initiated negotiations to acquire InnVest in 2016. According to press accounts, the Anbang executive representing the company, Li (Lydia) Chen, said that Anbang did not want to be named as the buyer. (Anbang also happened to be under examination by China’s insurance regulator at the time.)
After that met with objections, Chen then declared she was representing a new private pool of capital, Bluesky. Anbang denied its connection to Bluesky, but Chen went on to become Bluesky’s top ranking executive. Records from Hong Kong’s corporate registry trace Bluesky to a shell company in the British Virgin Islands. InnVest owns 81 hotels in major cities across Canada, including the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, the Ottawa Marriott and holds a stake in the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.
UNITE HERE represents workers at several hotels owned by Pacific Reach Properties and InnVest Hotels in Canada.