Wanda Group, controlled by Asia's richest man Wang Jianlin, buys Ironman triathlon brand for US$650m

World Triathlon is expected to generate US$183 million in revenue this year, following four years of growth averaging 21 per cent.
World Triathlon is expected to generate US$183 million in revenue this year, following four years of growth averaging 21 per cent.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin is expanding his sports empire, adding the organizer of Iron Man triathlons to holdings that already include soccer team Atletico Madrid.

Mr Wang is in the news ths week in reports that said he has lost the most, on paper, since China's stock markets started tumbing in June - a whopping US$13 billion (S$18 billion)

His holding copmany, Dalian Wanda Group Co., agreed to buy World Triathlon Corp. for US$650 million, becoming the owner of the world's largest sports operating company, according to an announcement in Beijing on Thursday (Aug 7).

Wanda's purchase of World Triathlon adds to Wang's sports- related holdings that include marketing company Infront Sports & Media AG and a 20 per cent 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 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 US$183 million in revenue this year, following four years of growth averaging 21 per cent, 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, Mr Wang said.

Mr Wang had recently overtook Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing as Asia's richest man, according to a ranking released last week by the Hurun Report.

The report estimated Mr Wang was worth US$42.6 billion.

Mr Wang spent 16 years as a soldier before achieving billionaire status by amassing an empire as founder of the Dalian Wanda Group, China's largest property owner with over 17 million sq m in its portfolio. The company operates shopping malls, luxury hotels and more.