Dalian Wanda Group Co., controlled by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, agreed to buy World Triathlon Corp., owner of the Ironman brand and series of triathlons, for $650 million.
Wanda will become the world’s largest sports company by scale, according to an announcement in Beijing. Providence Equity Partners Inc., a U.S.-based buyout firm, bought World Triathlon, based in the state of Florida, in 2008.
The purchase “enables Wanda to secure core resources and assets in the global sports industry,” the company said in the statement, calling triathlons “a jewel in the crown of world endurance sports.”
World Triathlon adds to Wang’s sports-related holdings that already included 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 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.
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.
The transaction falls in line with other fitness, better-for-you and active lifestyle M&A transactions recently: Catterton Partners invested in fitness class Pure Barre; Pure Gym Ltd. bought LA Fitness; and Silver Oak Partners invested in gym chain Vasa Fitness.