House Of Cards creator Beau Willimon and his Westward producing partner Jordan Tappis have teamed up with SK Global, the co-financiers of Warner Bros.’ Crazy Rich Asians franchise, to develop and produce a series based on Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World, the bestselling non-fiction book about the historic 1MDB Malaysian corruption scandal.
Screenwriter David Henry Hwang, a three-time Pulitzer finalist and playwright, has been tapped to write and executive produce the project. SK Global and Westward will co-finance and oversee all stages of development and production.
Written by award-winning Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope and published in 2018 by Hachette Books, Billion Dollar Whale offers an inside account of Malaysia’s massive 1MDB money-laundering scandal, exposing a nexus of elite wealth, banking, Hollywood, and politics. The book centers on the heist’s alleged mastermind, international fugitive Jho Low, and his adventures in Hollywood (financing Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and palling around with Leonardo DiCaprio) and Wall Street (making Goldman Sachs millions while defrauding investors). Still under investigation by authorities in Malaysia, Singapore, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the U.S. Department of Justice, the theft — estimated at $5 billion — ranks among the biggest cases of fraud in history.
The book became a New York Times bestseller and was named the Financial Times 2018 Book of the Year. It has sold more than half a million copies internationally, including over one hundred thousand copies in Asia where it remains a bestseller. Wright and Hope’s reporting on the subject contributed to prosecutions around the world, including in the largest ever bribery case against a major bank. Their investigation also played a pivotal role in Malaysian elections, overturning the decades-long domination of the ruling party and precipitating criminal charges against the former prime minister, Najib Razak.
SK Global’s John Penotti, Charlie Corwin and Marcy Ross will serve as executive producers alongside Willimon and Tappis on the series. Actor-producer Michelle Yeoh will also be a producer.
“At Westward we are drawn to stories that reflect the complexity of the times we live in, centering on enigmatic and surprising characters,” said Willimon and Tappis in a statement. “We’re also drawn to developing innovative ways to produce work in a quickly shifting entertainment landscape. With David Henry Hwang at the helm, and SK Global at our side, this project allows us to do both.”
Added Penotti and Corwin: “It’s hard to overstate the cultural impact of this story in Asia and around the world. It’s both a tale of financial greed and deceit, and a darkly comedic social satire.”
SK Global’s other projects in Asia include Thai Cave Rescue for Netflix, currently filming in Thailand, the series Delhi Crime (also at Netflix), and two upcoming features as part of Indonesia’s Bumilangit Cinematic Universe for Disney+.
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