Saturday, 29 August 2015

Ironman's New Owner

Ironman competitors diving into the water at the start of the race
It's been an interesting week for mainland property and entertainment tycoon Wang Jianlin. On Monday, he lost an estimated $3.6 billion according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index from the rocky ride in the stock market.

But later in the week he successfully acquired World Triathlon Corporation, the American owner of Ironman races.

On Thursday Dalian Wanda Group agreed to buy WTC for $650 million, following its acquisitions of Swiss marketing company Infront and Spanish football club Atletico Madrid in the past year.

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda that owns WTC
"At present, almost all the top sports events in the world are controlled by European and American companies. Acquisitions are the only way for most companies to scale up efficiently," said Wang, chairman of Dalian Wanda. "By acquiring World Triathlon Corporation, we will be able to have a world-class sports brand of our own."

WTC is the world's largest operator of ironman-distance triathlon events, and the owner of the Ironman brand. It holds more than 230 races that attract over 230,000 competitors every year.

However, not many Chinese participate in Ironman, where a full ironman-distance race involves a 3.36km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run.

Many do Ironman competitions for their personal best times
"Our next task is to introduce Ironman to more Chinese people," said Wang, 61. "Chinese people's lifestyle is changing, as they are getting rich. Running, for example, as become very popular among Chinese people in recent years. This has provided a good foundation for the development of sports like triathlon in the country."

However, analysts are scratching their heads over this latest acquisition. Yan Qiang, a Beijing-based sports industry observer didn't see how WTC fit in with the other sports brands, but conceded the Ironman brand would boost Wanda's globa profile.

"The dela came as quite a surprise," Yan said. "We could see a rather clear strategy when Wanda purchased Atletico Madrid and Infront. Yet the sport of triathlon seems to be a totally different area.

It will be interesting if more Chinese are interested in Ironman
"Unlike sports like football, triathlon is very new to China. It may take years for Wanda to warm up the market and attract fans in the country."

Ironman is more of a event people do on their own to improve their own fitness levels, not a team sport that has an audience cheering them on, unless they are friends and family. And because the race takes place over several hours, people don't necessarily have the patience to watch the entire thing.

But -- as a way to get Chinese into this ultimate level of sport is definitely intriguing.

The best publicity stunt would be for Wang to get his 27-year-old son Wang Sicong to train for an Ironman. When Apple released its watches, he bought two for his dog Wang Keke. Does he know his canine can't tell the time?

How about getting Wang Sicong training for Ironman?
He's already been ridiculed for being a spoiled rich kid and making silly off-the-cuff remarks. So a great way to rehabilitate his image would be to train for this grueling race to learn discipline, dedication, hard work and sheer physical strength. Surely his dad would approve?

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