Startups & VCs

Wanda offloads Ironman in US$730m deal with Advance

Jesse Du Bey rejoins board with Orkila Capital coming in as a co-investor.

by Tom Bassam

Wanda offloads Ironman in US$730m deal with Advance

US-based media and entertainment group Advance has entered into a definitive stock purchase agreement with Wanda Sports Group to acquire the Ironman triathlon series in an all-cash transaction worth US$730 million.  

The fee sees the owners of Conde Naste and venture capital firm Orkila take on Ironman’s entire portfolio of assets, which includes its flagship triathlons, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series and the Epic Series of mountain biking races, among other events. The investment split between the two parties has not been reported.

Wanda Group paid US$650 million to acquire World Triathlon Corp,  the Ironman organising body, from private equity firm Providence Equity Partners (PEP) in 2015. 

Orkila comes onboard as a co-investor, with managing partner Jesse Du Bey set to rejoin Ironman’s board of directors. Du Bey was previously managing director at PEP and led the private equity firm’s 2008 investment in Ironman.

"Since I last worked with Andrew and his team, the company has experienced significant growth in its global triathlon event footprint and has successfully expanded into new areas such as running, trail running and mountain biking," said Du Bey.

Du Bey is joined on the board by Advance and Andrew Messick, president and chief executive of the Ironman Group. 

"Today is an important milestone for the Ironman Group. We are pleased with this partnership, which is a testament to Advance's belief in the company," said Messick. 

"We remain confident in our future; our focus and objectives are unchanged; and we are ready to face the opportunities and challenges ahead. Together with Advance and Orkila, we will navigate through the turbulent and uncertain period in front of us and continue to deliver the exceptional experiences for which we're known. 

"We are pleased to welcome the Ironman Group to the Advance family of companies," added Janine Shelffo, Advance chief strategy and development officer. "The core Ironman Group values of endurance and perseverance resonate strongly at Advance, a 100 year-old business that has differentiated itself through long-term focus and commitment. 

“We're also pleased to join forces with Orkila and are grateful for the invaluable experience with the Ironman Group that they bring to our partnership."

Ironman usually runs more than 170 events a year on six continents, but dozens of races have been postponed throughout 2020 as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The deal sees Wanda Sports retain operation of the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 triathlon series, Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, as well as the Epic Series in China under an exclusive license agreement.

The transaction has no financing condition and is subject to customary regulatory approvals, with closing anticipated in the second quarter of 2020.

Wanda Sports shares rose 18 per cent to US$1.98 in New York trading on 25th March, valuing the divison at US$271 million. However, prior to that rally, Wanda Sports shares were down 79 per cent from its initial public offering in July. 

The deal comes after Wanda Sports announced the details of its new Credit Suisse loan facility last week.

Advance was advised by BofA Securities and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. The Ironman Group and Wanda Sports Group were advised by Credit Suisse and Reed Smith LLP.