LONDON, 10-2-2015 — /EuropaWire/ — Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd., one of the leading Chinese conglomerates and China’s largest investor in cultural and entertainment sector has reached an agreement to acquire Infront Sports & Media AG, the world’s most respected international sports marketing company based in Zug, Switzerland, from the European private equity firm Bridgepoint. The transaction is valued at approximately EUR 1.05 billion (USD 1.2 billion) and is subject to customary conditions.
Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Wanda Group, said: “This acquisition of Infront will significantly increase the future impact of the Wanda Group in the culture and entertainment industry and will also drive the development of Chinese sports industry and its interest around the globe. Infront, through its long-standing partnerships with some of the most important sports rights-holders, is top-connected in the global sports industry. It is best-positioned to actively support China in its bidding efforts for major sports events, as it is already involved in the planning, delivering, marketing and servicing of a broad array of top international events. By acquiring Infront, Wanda will also be in a position to increase its influence in the global sports industry and help raising the level of competition in Chinese sports. We are very confident to support Infront in its aim to become the number one global sports marketing company.”
Philippe Blatter, Infront’s President & CEO, added: “Based on our existing strategy and the combined experience of Wanda and Infront, we will continue to grow our business across the board, both internationally as well as in China. 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. Wanda is fully committed to actively contribute to Infront’s ambitious growth plans and shares our long-term vision as well as our corporate values. Overall, we are convinced that the new and strengthened ownership structure will help to further enhance our service offering to benefit our valued partners and clients.”
Commenting on its investment in Infront, Xavier Robert, Bridgepoint partner in Paris said: “Infront is a scarce asset in its sector that has delivered a strong performance on the back of geographical expansion and a growing sports contract base to become a well-diversified premium sports marketing company. We wish it continued success with a new important shareholder.”
Since the acquisition by Bridgepoint in 2011, Infront has been performing and growing steadily, further increasing and diversifying its first-class rights and service portfolio. Today, the Group occupies a leading position in the global sports marketing industry, enjoying successful partnerships with 160 rights holders in 25 sports and with hundreds of sponsor and media brands. Infront has over 25 offices in 13 countries and a well-diversified portfolio in winter sports, football, summer sports and active lifestyle & endurance. In 2014, the Group has delivered 4,000 event days and generated revenues of over EUR 800 million (USD 913 million).
In football, it is partner to international (e.g. Fédération Internationale de Football Association – FIFA) and national federations (e.g. the German and the Italian Football Federation), leagues (e.g. the Italian Lega Serie A) as well as clubs (e.g. A.C. Milan, F.C. Internazionale Milano, SV Werder Bremen, 1. FC Köln). In winter sports, Infront is the undisputed market leader representing all seven Olympic winter sports federations, including the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)for ice hockey; in summer sports, Infront represents a strong rights portfolio including international federations for handball (European Handball Federation – EHF), volleyball (Confédération Européenne de Volleyball – CEV) and cycling (Union Cycliste Internationale – UCI), as well as the Turkish Basketball League (TBL); in the active lifestyle & endurance segment the company collaborates with the World Marathon Majors and the iconic Ironman endurance events amongst other properties.
Infront is also the leading sports marketing organisation in China. During the past ten years, it has created tremendous momentum for Chinese basketball by representing the country’s top sport both on CBA League and National Team level. In 2014, the Group successfully launched a domestic mass participation series for amateur runners (Happy 10k), driving forward its strategic expansion in the Active Lifestyle segment.
After the acquisition through Wanda, Infront’s existing, most experienced senior management team led by President & CEO Philippe Blatter will remain in place. Based on Infront’s successful business strategy, both parties have agreed on a long-term strategic plan until 2020.
A long-standing heritage in the sport sector Wanda has a long-standing heritage in the sport sector. Having played a first-hand role in the transformation of Chinese football in 1993, including the establishment of Dalian Wanda F.C., the nation’s number one professional football club, the Group has a long affiliation with football. Wanda has also been showing a constant support to the development of football in China, with as special focus on the growth of grassroots football through China’s Future Star Program. Just recently, Wanda acquired a 20 per-cent stake in Atlético de Madrid. The club has also contributed to China’s Future Star Program for many years. This agreement has now been extended for six additional years. By 2017, Wanda aims to invest EUR 20 million annually to support the development of 180 young Chinese players in Spain.
The Wanda Group was advised on the transaction by Shankai Sports (market due diligence), PwC (financial and tax due diligence) and Reed Smith (legal); Bridgepoint was advised by Lazard (corporate finance), KPMG (financial and tax due diligence), Latham & Watkins, Niederer Kraft & Freyand Clifford Chance (legal); the Infront management was advised by Blättchen & Partner (corporate finance) and Homburger (legal).
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