Friday, June 9, 2017

IRONMAN Acquires Competitor Group

In August, 2015, Chinese conglomerate, Wanda Group, acquired IRONMAN (primarily known for its long distance triathlon races) from a private equity group for $650 million

Last Friday, IRONMAN/Wanda acquired Competitor Group (primarily known for the Rock 'n Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon series) for an undisclosed amount. 

To start, I had no idea organizing endurance sports had become such big business, but given the increasing popularity and the increasing entry fees, perhaps I should have known. 

Personally, I have mixed feelings about big corporations dominating endurance sports, which, previously, had been much less commercial. On one hand, because of their scale, larger corporations like Competitor Group can conduct their events in a very professional manner, produce slick event shirts, measure the courses precisely, host impressive expos before the races and impressive after-parties, maintain plenty of insurance, take proper precautions, and market effectively to bring new participants into the events.

On the other hand, the big corporations often seem focused on a single, financial line. They raise entry fees as high as they can and often seem to spend an incredible amount on marketing. The races organized by big corporations often lack the individual touch of local races. That said locally organized races are a mixed bag. Sometimes they are organized by complete amateurs, and their lack of experience or financial backing shows in things like poorly measured and marked courses. Other times, when organized by devotees of the sport, locally organized races can provide a superior event without the marketing, frills, and shiny gadgets. Perhaps there will be room all types of organizers, especially because the locally organizers are usually nonprofit operations, and therefore are a bit of a different animal.

This strategic acquisition by IRONMAN may be telling regarding the trajectory of races. The long distance races like the IRONMAN (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) had skyrocketed in popularity, but, while those races are still currently popular, I think that many people are starting to realize they don't have the time or the money (the entry fee is often over $500) for that kind of event. Competitor Group brings not only a portfolio of marathons (26.2 miles) to the table, but also half marathons (13.1 miles, which is growing in popularity), 5Ks (3.1 miles), and even 1 mile races. 

In any case, I do wish IRONMAN the best with this acquisition, and I hope they will consider all stakeholders as they move forward. 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2017/06/ironman-acquires-competitor-group.html

Corporate Governance, Haskell Murray, M&A, Private Equity, Sports | Permalink

Comments

That's quite a shocking sum for a business that seems primarily dependent on entry-fees and not TV money! Thanks for the alert.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Jun 12, 2017 12:50:25 PM

The 2015 article said that IRONMAN was projected to do $183 million in revenue that year. Over three times projected revenue seems a bit rich, but I don't know what their profit was. Insurance is a big cost, but the other costs don't seem too significant. Also, IRONMAN has licensed its name to some companies, like Timex, and I have no idea what that brings in. No financial details about the 2017 Competitor deal were publicly disclosed, at least not in the stories I read.

Posted by: Haskell Murray | Jun 12, 2017 3:06:28 PM

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