Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has bought World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) for 650 million U.S. dollars, adding the world's leading triathlon organizer to its already sports-heavy portfolio.
While Wanda is primarily known as a property developer, the deal makes it the world's biggest sports company in terms of operating revenue, with assets including Swiss sports marketing group Infront Sports & Media, which Wanda purchased for 1.05 billion euros (1.2 billion U.S. dollars) earlier this year, and a 20-percent stake in Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid.
Florida-based WTC, organizer of the Ironman triathlon series, has a 91-percent share of the market for long-distance triathlons, races which challenge competitors to swim, cycle then run. The management of WTC will stay with the company and will be offered the chance to buy shares.
"The Chinese market is a goldmine waiting to be dug," said Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin at the contract signing ceremony on Thursday.
While China has the world's biggest population, the triathlon is still an underdeveloped sports program, with only around 100 amateurs competing in most events. However, as Chinese are gaining a higher quality of life and many of them are taking up running, triathlons have room for growth, said Wang.
Wanda plans to promote the sport on TV and is aiming to attract 200,000 regular amateur participants in China within 10 years.
The acquisition gives Wanda the rights to organize and broadcast international triathlons, and create synergy with its other holdings including Infront and its travel businesses, according to Wang.
The group is also considering purchasing another sports firm in the second half of the year, he added.