Ever heard of Dalian Wanda? Like most triathletes racing Ironman distance triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) you know the Ironman brand and you know the World Triathlon Corporation that owns the Ironman brand, but what you may not know until later today, August 27, 2015 is that WTC and Ironman is now owned by a man named Dalian Wanda from China.
Dalian Wanda Group was founded in 1988 and operates in four major areas of commercial property, luxury hotels, culture and tourism, and department stores. In 2014, the company’s assets totaled 534.1 billion yuan ($85.6 billion) and annual income reached 242.5 billion yuan ($38.8 billion).
From Wikipedia, “Since 2005, recent years Chinese property developers like Dalian Wanda and Evergrande have made forays into “alternative, income-generating businesses away from the property market”. The Financial Times noted that Dalian Wanda was the “most aggressive” in pursuing this strategy, pointing to its 2012 acquisition of U.S. cinema chain AMC Theatres and 2013 purchase of British yacht maker Sunseeker. It noted that it was also “building theme parks across China. Additionally, Dalian Wanda is building a Chinese Hollywood in the coastal city of Qingdao, where it is building a “mega-entertainment center that will include a theme park, a film museum, a wax museum and a massive film studio, which [founder Wang Jianlin] promises will be the world’s largest”.”
“The Economist noted that company’s “recent move into cultural industries has clearly been made with government support”, pointing out that Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, views promoting traditional Chinese culture as “vital to projecting China’s soft power abroad and maintaining the Communist Party’s grip at home”.”
Wanda said in a statement Thursday, August 27, 2015 that it’s paying $650 million for Tampa, Florida based World Triathlon Corporation as it forecasts explosive demand in China for the sport. The company said its purchase “will bring a top international competition to China for the first time”, even though WTC has offered Ironman events in the country in the past.
The big question on every triathlete’s mind is, “what’s this going to do to the Ironman events”? Obviously it appears that there’s no chance of the events ending any time soon, but the focus seems to be on building the sport from China first and focusing on its presence abroad later. Will Ironman events boast a Chinese flag at events and have an undertone of Communism? Time will tell. Note that the purchase of AMC Theatres in 2012 has resulted in a new headquarters for the company in Overland Park, Kansas, renovated theatres and additional services with higher ticket prices.
Ironman events are already approaching the $800 mark for entry when they were only $650 a few years ago. Entry prices could pick up steam as the Chinese economy worsens and Wanda looks to capitalize on his lucrative investments in North America.
What’s an Ironman triathlete to do? They most notable indication of a competitor and finisher of an Ironman 140.6 distance triathlon is the distinctive m-dot tattoo that represents the Ironman brand. Will Americans think twice now that the company is owned in China about getting a company logo permanently inked on their body?
Time will tell.