Donnerstag, 27. August 2015

Press Release: International Triathlon Union welcomes Dalian Wanda to triathlon

The International Triathlon Union (ITU) congratulates the Dalian Wanda Group’s recent acquisition of the World Triathlon Corporation, and welcomes the Chinese conglomerate to the sport of triathlon.

“As the international governing body for triathlon, we look forward to working with Dalian Wanda in an effort to mutually grow the sport,” said ITU President and IOC Member Marisol Casado. “We have recently come a long way in working with the World Triathlon Corporation on the harmonization of triathlon rules. It is critical that all triathlon event companies implement these standards to ensure that, as triathlon grows globally, it is done so with an equal understanding of the sport worldwide.”

“ITU has been heavily focused on growing triathlon in China and across all of Asia. We’ve enjoyed great success with ITU World Cup races, technical official courses and athlete development camps held in China in the last several years thanks to the hard work of the China Triathlon Sports Association.

“Working with Dalian Wanda in conjunction with ITU National Federations and Continental Confederations further opens the doors to continue the development of triathlon both globally and locally. We see their entrance into the triathlon world as a positive one.”

World Triathlon Corporation’s Ironman Asia Pacific division recently served as the race organizer for ITU’s World Triathlon Gold Coast event, which is slated to continue the next three years, including a turn as the local organizing committee of the ITU World Championships in 2018.

(International Triathlon Union, 27 AUG 2015)

Infront and IRONMAN - a deadly combination in endurance sports marketing

Following the recent acquisition of World Triathlon Corporation, Inc. by Dalian Wanda Group for est. $890 million including assumed obligations raises a couple of questions. Three particular will be addressed in this article.

How and when can get Dalian Wanda get a return on investment?

Dalian Wanda is separated into two divisions. The Real Estate division owns 100+ shopping malls and 70+ hotels and is the powerhouse of Dalian Wanda Group's wealth. The second division is called The Cultural Industry Group are 6,600+ movie screens, including the largest movie theater chains like Hoyts Group in Australia, Wanda Cinemas China and AMC Entertainment Theaters in the U.S. Other assets are Sunseeker yachts from Great Britain and Swiss Sports Marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG.
The 2015 acquisitions of Ironman and Infront Sports & Media properties have made Wanda Group one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive sports companies. Logo: Dalian Wanda Group
Infront was acquired in February 2015. His CEO Philippe Blatter, a nephew of FIFA long term president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, is a triathlete with 15 Ironman finishes under his belt. Infront is in charge of being WTC's marketing and media service partner for EMEA region since 2011. Infront was also one of the parties conducting due diligence on WTC's assets in year 2014, but stepped away from a deal. Maybe the price tag was too high or Dalian Wanda was already approaching early talks of an acquisition of Infront itself. But at one time, a Dalian Wanda Group owned company had already all important data concerning WTC's core assets like IRONMAN and M-Dot brands and owned races.

IRONMAN is missing a real and long term sponsorhip deal and tv coverage on a global scale. Logo: WTC
The Cultural Industry Group could leverage IRONMAN with current Dalian Wanda Group assets like film industry and sports marketing. Short-term exceptional growth rate can be expected in Aisa and esp. in China, while other regions may consolidates.
Infront already manages media and marketing assets for IRONMAN in EMEA region. Logo: Infront 
A major role could play Infront. IRONMAN lacks for years on a real global title sponsorhsip deal or at least a branded sponsorship for all regional championship races as a series, same applies to the majority of regional races. Infront could contribute here and build a win, win situation for Dalian Wanda at this stage: generating commission for sponsorship deals and the deal itself for two of its own companies. Dalian Wanda movie studios, movie screens, Infront and IRONMAN - a deadly combination in endurance sports marketing.

Update: Sportspromedia has released a similar point of view of the importance of Infronts future role and how Dalian Wanda Group acquired WTC:
The Swiss-based agency [...] lead by its chief executive Philippe Blatter, an Ironman participant and enthusiast, was the driving force behind bringing the WTC and Wanda together. 
For its part, Infront made the following statement to SportsPro: “The acquisition of the WTC represents an important step to further expand the strategic involvement in global sports business, a strong move into the fast growing field of active lifestyle and mass participation events as well as into event ownership. Further it perfectly complements Infront’s portfolio, including major marathon events as well as the B2RUN and Happy 10K running series. “Our shared aim is to build a number one position in the global sports market through a variety of major expansion projects.” [2]

Will IRONMAN continue its aggressive groth and expansion plan?

Yes, according to an email Andrew Messick, CEO of IRONMAN sent on August 27: "This ownership transition marks the start of another exciting chapter and opportunity for growth of our company.  This sale allows IRONMAN to continue its aggressive growth, particularly throughout Asia, and reinforces our global appeal."

Will IRONMAN's Senior Management stay in place?

There is no answer for the long term, but the same email addresses this topic as well: "Although this is big news for our organization, rest assured that the IRONMAN team will stay focused on our races, our people, our athletes and our partners.  IRONMAN has a very bright future: I intend to remain the CEO of IRONMAN and will be signing a contract extension as will the core of our senior management team. More broadly, our teams and leadership will remain intact, we will continue to grow and provide opportunities for partners and athletes."

Other sources wrote about a 5 year agreement between Dalian Wanda and the senior management of IRONMAN and its core members. [3]
  1. Transaction confirmed, Dalian Wanda Group acquires World Triathlon Corporation and Ironman for $650 million
  2. WTC new star of Wanda after US$650m deal
  3. Transaction confirmed, Dalian Wanda Group acquires World TriathlonCorporation and Ironman for $650 million

Transaction confirmed, Dalian Wanda Group acquires World TriathlonCorporation and Ironman for $650 million

As reported earlier, Tampa based World Triathlon Corporation, Inc. (WTC) confirmed acquisition by Dalian Wanda Group for $650 million from private equity company Providence Equity Partners (PEP) in August 2015. In this price tag, Ironman's debt of around $240 million isn't included. The consolidated price with pending assumed obligations is around the $890 million mark. [1, 2]

The 2015 acquisitions of Ironman and Infront Sports & Media properties have made Wanda Group one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive sports companies. Logo: Dalian Wanda Group
PEP bought Ironman for est. $85 million from former owner, Dr. James P. Gills in 2008. The Gills family paid $3 million to Valerie Silk in 1990. Business value increased around 764% since Providence invested in the company, valuation exploded around 21,666% from first transaction in 1990. PEP invested during their ownership around $216m into WTC, mostly for acquisitions of former independent franchisees with Ironman events around the globe. This would reduce the valuation to roughly 400%, exceeding PEP's minimum goal of 250%.

U.S. Navy Commander John Collins founded the race in 1978 to compare three already existing endurance races. Around 1979 Collins no longer wanted to direct the Ironman race and approached Nautilus Fitness Center owners Hank Grundman and Valerie Silk about taking over control of the race. Following personal circumstances in 1981 Silk received ownership of Ironman. [2]

Davis Noell, Managing Director at Providence Equity Partners, Andrew Messick, CEO of WTC comments on the deal, following lastest Dalian Wanda acquistions of Infront Sports & Media and Atletico Madrid. Surprisingly a Dalian Wanda Group spokesperson didn't released a statement in this press release:

Wanda Group Acquires IRONMAN for Equity Value Of $650 Million From Providence Equity Partners 
Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd. (“Wanda Group”), one of the leading Chinese private conglomerates, has reached an agreement to acquire 100% of IRONMAN for an equity value of approximately $650 million from Providence Equity Partners. As part of the transaction, Wanda Group will work with the current lending group and assume IRONMAN’s existing indebtedness. The acquisition by Wanda Group heralds yet another landmark investment in the sports sector following Infront Sports & Media and Atletico Madrid.

“Wanda Group’s acquisition of IRONMAN marks another exciting chapter and opportunity for the future growth of IRONMAN after seven very successful years of ownership by Providence Equity Partners,” said Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer for IRONMAN. “Wanda Group is a global-minded organization that shares our desire for excellence and continued growth, particularly in Asia. We are delighted to be part of the Wanda Group family of companies and are excited about the future of IRONMAN as we continue to provide life changing race experiences for athletes of all levels from their first step to the finish line.”

The iconic IRONMAN brand is the largest participation sports platform in the world. Its flagship races are IRONMAN® triathlons, which consists of a 3.9km (2.4 mile) swim, 180km (112 mile) bike and 42km (26.2 mile) run, and IRONMAN® 70.3® triathlons, which consist of a 1.9km (1.2 mile) swim, 90km (56 mile) bike, and 21.1km (13.1 mile) run. From its beginnings on the shores of Waikiki Beach on the island of O’ahu in Hawaii in 1978, IRONMAN has organized, promoted, and licensed triathlon events for 37 years, and owns five exclusive triathlon brands, operating at least 250 events every year around the world.

IRONMAN is expected to generate $183 million in revenue in 2015 and has increased revenue at a CAGR of 21% over the past four years. Due to its unique business model and proprietary intellectual property, the company is expected to deliver strong continued growth going forward.

The 2015 acquisitions of IRONMAN and Infront Sports & Media properties have made Wanda Group one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive sports companies. With these new businesses, Wanda Group now has sports sales, media & marketing, and operational capabilities on six continents with strong positions in North America, Europe, China, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Davis Noell, Managing Director at Providence Equity Partners said, “We have thoroughly enjoyed our partnership with IRONMAN over the past seven years and are pleased with the company’s growth and operational excellence under Andrew’s leadership. We have great respect for Wanda Group and its leading global sports platform and believe IRONMAN is well positioned to continue its success with their support.”
Upd.: According to Slowtwitch all top management staff members are required to stay at WTC a 5 year term. [7]
Dalian Wanda required key employees to agree to 5-year employment agreements as a condition of the deal, and the office is not moving from Tampa, Florida. It seems to want stability and continuity. 
  1. Dalian Wanda Group in talks to acquire World Triathlon Corporation and IRONMAN triathlon for USD 850 million
  2. Ironman History
  3. Dalian Wana Group
  4. Providence Equity
  6. The New York Times: China's Dalian Wanda Buys Ironman Triathlon Brand for $650M
  7. Ironman sold to Dalian Wanda
  8. Ironman to be Acquired by China's Dalian Wanda

Samstag, 8. August 2015

Dalian Wanda Group in talks to acquire World Triathlon Corporation andIRONMAN triathlon for $850 million

According to South China Morning Post, Dalian Wanda Group, owned by China's richest man Wang Jianlin is in talks to acquire IRONMAN's parent company World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). An mass participation sports asset would follow other acquisitions in the sports and media segment. Switzerland based sports marketing firm Infront Sports & Media was bought for EUR 1.05 billion in February 2015. A group, that was interested in  WTC itself, but walked away from a deal. [1]

Maybe Infront's parent company can close a deal, certainly on a much lower price, than introduced from South China Morning Post. Not very reasonable sounds the "very high" price tag of $850m, considering assumed obligations like the $220m loan (due 2021) to pay a dividend to it's current owner Providence Equity partners and a $20 revolver due 2019 on WTC's balance sheet. Rating agency Moody's Investors Service has assigned a B2 Corporate Family Rating (CFR) and B2-PD Probability of Default Rating (PDR) to World Triathlon Corporation ("WTC" or "the company") in 2014. [2]

South China Morning Post wasn't able to get a confirmation from any involved party, but several of our own insider sources confirmed the negotiations and a very specific time window to close the deal around 10th of August 2015:

Dalian Wanda outbid other potential buyers for Ironman and is now in negotiations to finalise a deal with its owner, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners, the person said this week. There is no certainty that Dalian Wanda will manage to finalise a deal, the person added.
The source asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. A spokesman for Providence declined to comment, while representatives for Dalian Wanda and Ironman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  1. China’s richest man in talks to buy Ironman triathlon competition for more than US$850m. Wang Jianlin's company, Dalian Wanda Group, is in talks to purchase triathlon firm, says source.
  2. Rating Action: Moody's assigns B2 corporate family rating to World Triathlon Corporation, Global Credit Research - 17 Jun 2014