Millennium Post

China tycoon buys sports firm led by Blatter nephew for $1.2 billion

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 $1.2 billion, the two firms said.

The Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate is looking to increase its influence in the global sports business, as Beijing bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics while rumours swirl that it could seek to host the 2026 football World Cup.

Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin said in a joint statement that Infront “is best positioned to actively
support China in its bidding efforts for major sports events”.

At a news conference following the announcement, he also cited Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-step plan for developing football in China: “To qualify for a World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup.”

Wanda is looking to diversify from the property business as Chinese economic growth slows and real estate prices slump in many cities across the country.

The deal puts Wang who is China’s second-richest man according to Bloomberg Billionaires and recently bought 20 percent 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.

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.

Infront 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.

Marcus Luer, founder and CEO of marketing agency Total Sports Asia, told AFP he would be “very surprised” if FIFA did not give China the 2026 World Cup.
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