China’s Wanda Agrees to Buy World Triathlon for $650 Million

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Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin is expanding his sports empire, adding the organizer of Ironman triathlons to holdings including soccer team Atletico Madrid.

Dalian Wanda Group Co. agreed to buy World Triathlon Corp. for $650 million, becoming the owner of the world’s largest sports operating company, according to an announcement in Beijing. The management team at Tampa, Florida-based World Triathlon will stay with the company after the acquisition, and have signed a long-term contract, according to the statement.

“Triathlons are on the cusp of explosion in China,” the company said in the statement. The purchase “enables Wanda to secure core resources and assets in the global sports industry.”

Providence Equity Partners Inc., a buyout firm based in the Rhode Island city with the same name, bought World Triathlon in 2008 from the Gills family that had owned the company since 1990.

Wanda’s purchase of World Triathlon adds to Wang’s sports-related holdings that include marketing company Infront Sports & Media AG and a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid. China’s sports industry has “huge room for growth” and Wanda will buy “a few” companies in the second half of this year to tap the potential, Wang said in July.

Wanda’s Expansion

Wanda may acquire one more sports company by the end of this year and is in talks with “another few” that all have intellectual property rights for sports not yet popular in China, Wang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday. Wanda may announce a “major acquisition” in one or two months, he said, without being specific.

World Triathlon is expected to generate $183 million in revenue this year, following four years of growth averaging 21 percent, the company said in a separate statement. Management have drafted five-year operational targets that are “very satisfactory,” though they don’t yet include potential contributions from China, Wang said.

Infront

Wanda in February bought Zug, Switzerland-based Infront from private equity firm Bridgepoint for 1.05 billion euros ($1.2 billion). Infront is well positioned to actively support China in its bidding for major international sports events, Wang said then.

Wang, Asia’s third-richest man, has a net worth of about $29.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Wanda will only buy sports companies whose business can be localized in China, Wang said in his half-year work report that was posted on the Beijing-based group’s website July 13. First-half revenue rose 18 percent to 108.5 billion yuan ($17 billion), and is forecast to rise to 167.1 billion yuan in the second half, the company said.

Wanda, which already owns China’s biggest commercial real estate developer and diverse operations including yachtmaking in Britain and cinema chains around the world, is planning mergers and acquisitions involving three finance companies, according to Wang’s report.

— With assistance by Dingmin Zhang

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