Card castle creator Beau Willimon and his production partner Westward 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 on Malaysia’s landmark 1MDB corruption scandal.
Three-time finalist and Pulitzer playwright David Henry Hwang was chosen to write and produce the project. SK Global and Westward will co-finance and oversee all stages of development and production.
Written by award-winning the Wall Street newspaper reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope and published in 2018 by Hachette Books, Billion dollar whale provides an account of the massive 1MDB money laundering scandal in Malaysia, exposing a link between elite wealth, banking, Hollywood and politics. The book centers on the alleged Junkyard mastermind, international fugitive Jho Low, and his adventures in Hollywood (funding Martin Scorsese’s project the wolf of Wall Street and joking with Leonardo DiCaprio) and Wall Street (making millions at Goldman Sachs while defrauding investors). Still under investigation by authorities in Malaysia, Singapore, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the US Department of Justice, the theft – estimated at $ 5 billion – is among the biggest fraud cases in history.
The book became a New York Times bestseller and was named the Financial Time Book of the year 2018. It has sold over half a million copies internationally, including over 100,000 copies in Asia where it remains a bestseller. Wright and Hope’s reporting on the subject contributed to lawsuits around the world, including the largest corruption case ever against a major bank. Their investigation also played a central role in the Malaysian election, overthrowing decades-long ruling party domination and precipitating criminal prosecution against former prime minister Najib Razak.
SK Global’s John Penotti, Charlie Corwin and Marcy Ross will executive produce alongside Willimon and Tappis on the series. Actress-producer Michelle Yeoh will also be a producer.
“At Westward, we’re drawn to stories that reflect the complexity of the times we live in, centered around enigmatic and surprising characters,” Willimon and Tappis said in a statement. “We are also drawn to the development of innovative methods to produce works in a rapidly changing entertainment landscape. With David Henry Hwang at the helm and SK Global by our side, this project allows us to do both.
Penotti and Corwin added: “It’s hard to overstate the cultural impact of this story in Asia and around the world. It’s both a story of financial greed and deception, and a dark, 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 on Netflix) and two upcoming features as part of the Indonesian Bumilangit Cinematic Universe for Disney +.
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