Ironman to Be Acquired By Privately Owned Advance

Owner of Condé Nast enters into a definitive stock purchase agreement for Ironman Group at an enterprise value of $730 million.

Photo: Getty Images for IRONMAN

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UPDATE: The sale to Advance was finalized and completed on July 20, 2020. This original article is from March 26, when the acquisition announcement was made.

Ironman today revealed in a press release that Advance, a private family-owned business that most notably owns Condé Nast and has major investments in Reddit and Discovery, has entered into a definitive stock purchase agreement with Wanda Sports Group Company to acquire The Ironman Group in an all-cash transaction at an enterprise value of $730 million according to RTT News. The transaction is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2020.

Back in 2015, the Dalian Wanda Group Co. paid $650 million to acquire World Triathlon Corporation from equity firm Providence Equity Partners. Ironman then became part of Wanda Sports, which was listed on the NASDAQ as WSG in July of 2019.

According to Bloomberg, Advance has been looking to diversify its portfolio beyond advertising, and this is a move to help do that. Shares of Wanda Sports rose 18% to $1.98 in New York trading Wednesday, giving the company a market value of about $271 million. According to that same article on Bloomberg, shares were previously down 79% from the initial public offering. As of Thursday morning, stocks had risen over 40% to $2.88 per share.

The Ironman Group includes Ironman and 70.3 triathlons, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, and the Epic Series of mountain biking events. Ironman says that each year over one million international athletes participate in an Ironman Group race. As part of the transaction, Wanda Sports Group will continue to operate the Ironman, 70.3, Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons, and Epic Series of off-road mountain bike races in China under an exclusive license agreement. Recently Ironman has had to cancel or reschedule hundreds of events in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but last week announced a “virtual race series.” 

The press release also says that growth equity firm Orkila Capital will join as a co-investor with Jesse Du Bey, Managing Partner of Orkila, rejoining its Board of Directors alongside Advance and Ironman CEO Andrew Messick. Du Bey, previously a Managing Director at Providence Equity Partners, led that firm’s 2008 investment in 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 in the press release. “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.

“I’m also thrilled to welcome Jesse Du Bey back to the Board of Directors of The Ironman Group.” Messick continued, “We thank Wanda Sports Group for its support over the past four years and are proud of what we have accomplished together. We look forward to continuing our work in China with Wanda Sports Group in the coming years.”

The first sale of the brand took place in 1990, when Dr. James P. Gills and Lew Friedland acquired and purchased the Hawaii Triathlon Corporation, the then-owner of the Ironman brand, for $3 million from Valerie Silk. Gills established the World Triathlon Corporation and then in 2008 sold it to Providence Equity Partners for $85 million.

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