China's Wanda Buys Infront Sports & Media From Bridgepoint for $1.2 Billion

Wang Jianlin Dalian Wanda Chairman H

Infront is the sales rep for broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and the deal could give China a boost in its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Dalian Wanda Group, the Chinese real estate company headed by China's richest man Wang Jianlin, has bought the Swiss sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media Group from the private equity group Bridgepoint for $1.2 billion.

Infront is the exclusive sales representative for distribution of broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and it does media and marketing for the Chinese Basketball Association. It is run by Philippe Blatter, nephew of Sepp Blatter, president of global soccer's organizing body, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

"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," Wang said in a statement.

Wang said that Infront was well positioned to help support China in bidding for major sports events. The purchase comes as China is bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"By acquiring Infront, Wanda will also be in a position to increase its influence in the global sports industry and help in 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," said Wang.

Blatter said that the acquisition would help boost Infront's expansion plans.

Bridgepoint bought Infront in 2011. Infront has partnerships with 160 rights holders in 25 sports and with hundreds of sponsor and media brands, delivering 4,000 event days and generating revenues of over $913 million.

Dalian Wanda Group is a China's largest commercial property company. Over the past few years it has made aggressive moves to diversify into global entertainment. In 2012, Wanda bought North America's second-biggest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, for $2.6 billion. It is currently moving forward with plans to build an $8.2 billion film studio, amusement park and real estate development in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao. It has also announced ambitions to launch a major film festival and awards show at the planned complex. 

Sports are the latest facet of the company's expansion strategy. Last month, it bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid for $52 million.

Infront is sizable player in international soccer. It is a partner to numerous national federations, including the German and Italian football federation, soccer clubs such as AC Milan, Inter Milan and Werder Bremen.

Significantly, given China's Winter Olympics bid, it also represents all seven Olympic winter sports federations, including the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for ice hockey.