Wanda conglomerate buys Swiss sports marketing group headed by Blatter's nephew

Beijing (AFP) - China's Wanda Group has agreed to buy Infront - the Swiss sports marketing group headed by Sepp Blatter's nephew and which holds some broadcasting rights to the World Cup - for 1.05 billion euros (S$1.66 billion), the two firms said Tuesday.

Wang Jianlin, chairman of the Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate, said in a joint statement that the acquisition will "drive the development of Chinese sports industry and its interest around the globe".

The deal puts Wang - who recently bought 20 per cent of Spanish football champions Atletico Madrid - and his company firmly in the front row of the global sports business.

Infront Sports and Media, based in Zug, Switzerland, and directed by Philippe Blatter, handles the media and marketing rights for many international sports events. It is expected to rake in several hundred million dollars on the next two football World Cups - in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022 - alone.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has in the past come under criticism after its decision to award to Infront the sale of TV rights in a number of Asian countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

The company, which counts some 600 employees across 12 countries, is also heavily present in all aspects of sports marketing, with sponsoring activities including advertising around sports halls and stadiums.

It also handles media finances for many football clubs, including AC Milan and Inter Milan, and counts the Berlin Marathon, China's professional basketball league and the European Handball Federation among its clients.

Philippe Blatter said in the statement: "We are looking forward to jointly tackle a variety of major expansion projects with the aim to strengthen our leading position in the global sports market."