2 Jun 2022

Lin Lang: A billionaire horse exporter's change in fortunes

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 2 June 2022

Billionaire Chinese businessman Lin Lang pioneered the export of New Zealand thoroughbred horses to China, but now his company's been placed into receivership - what happened?

Thirty thoroughbred race horses were due to be flown to Hong Kong in July last year.

Photo: 123rf.com

From owning a couple of hot pot restaurants to exporting hundreds of Kiwi thoroughbreds to China, billionaire Lin Lang has created plenty of intrigue in racing and politics. 

But Lang's New Zealand company - Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry - is in receivership. The horse exports have stopped, putting a market potentially worth many millions of dollars on hold. 

New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing chief executive Andrew Birch says Lin Lang put New Zealand on the map as an exporter of thoroughbreds. 

"He certainly played a role in attracting the attention of a bit of a sleeping giant in the mainland Chinese market, which has for the best part of 40 years been promising to really take off as a racing jurisdiction."  

Lang also attracted attention for his champion horse Mongolian Khan, which won the prestigious Caulfield Cup in Australia in 2015. 

He later hit headlines for a $150,000 donation to the National Party

The Detail looks at Lin Lang – also known by the moniker Mr Wolf – and how he built his business and reputation in the racing industry, and the controversy he caused in politics. 

Birch recalls the surreal experience of looking at a map to pinpoint Inner Mongolia, then travelling to Lang's properties, which include a top-notch racetrack, breeding facilities and a luxury hotel. 

"It opened up a whole new world of opportunities," he says. 

Birch was first approached mid-2012 by an associate of Lang, to say that he was keen on sourcing some in foal broodmares for Inner Mongolia. 

Lang wanted the pregnant mares because the resulting foals could race as Chinese horses, whereas international horses were limited in the races they could contest.  

Any form of gambling in mainland China is illegal, but that’s expected to change, potentially opening a billion-dollar industry. 

Birch says, for Lang, the prospect of Kiwi horse exports was made more alluring by the free trade agreement between the two countries, which was signed in 2008. 

Just a few months after that initial conversation in 2012, Lang arrived with his team of experts, toured properties and selected horses - his first foray into buying New Zealand breeding stock.  

Birch explains how the first shipment became the test run for many more. 

But in May, Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry was put into receivership.  

Businessdesk acting head of news Paul McBeth says the move was a surprise, given the New Zealand operation is part of a much bigger group - the company is owned by a Chinese firm of the same name, directed by Lang. 

"It came out of the blue to us, because this was just a unit of a larger entity - you'd often see that the parent would come to play and would often come to pick up the slack if things are getting a bit tight. 

"The thing that stood out for us was that it was the Bank of China that requested the receivership." 

The bank has secured interests in the livestock and will make sure the horses are sold so it gets paid. 

"It will be part of a much bigger facility [loan] so it would cover not just the New Zealand business but in theory it should be covering other parts of the business in other parts of the world." 

McBeth also explains the controversy around Lang's $150,000 donation to the National Party through his company and the rule changes that resulted from it. 

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