Bridgepoint exits Infront in $1.2bn deal


Financier Worldwide Magazine

April 2015 Issue

April 2015 Issue

European private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital announced in February that it had agreed to sell international sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media AG to Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd for $1.2bn.

London based Bridgepoint acquired Infront in 2011 in a deal worth around €550m including debt. Accordingly, the deal represents a significant profit for Bridgepoint. The firm beat competition from a number of firms to complete the deal for Infront four years ago, including the Qatar Investment Authority.

Infront is the exclusive sales representative for the distribution of broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, is partnered with several national football governing bodies and also provides media and marketing coverage for the Chinese Basketball Association. Infront has developed partnerships with 160 rights holders in 25 sports. The firm is responsible for delivering 4000 event days worldwide and generates revenues of over $913m. The firm’s president and chief executive is Philippe Blatter, the nephew of Sepp Blatter, the longstanding president of FIFA. According to a joint statement announcing the deal, Mr Blatter will continue in his leadership role at Bridgepoint once the deal has been completed.

Speaking of the deal, Mr Blatter said “Based on our existing strategy and the combined experience of Wanda and Infront, we will continue to grow our business across the board, both internationally as well as in China. We are looking forward to jointly tackle a variety of major expansion projects with the aim to strengthen our leading position in the global sports market. Wanda is fully committed to actively contribute to Infront’s ambitious growth plans and shares our long-term vision as well as our corporate values. Overall, we are convinced that the new and strengthened ownership structure will help to further enhance our service offering to benefit our valued partners and clients.”

The acquisition of Infront by Dalian, the Chinese real estate firm led by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, saw the company outbid a number of other firms. Under the terms of the deal, Dalian will take a 68.2 percent stake in the company and three unidentified Chinese and global investors will take the remaining minority stake in the firm. The deal for Infront has been orchestrated by Dalian to help improve the standing of sports events in China going forward. Accordingly, the deal will be particularly important as China prepares to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda, said “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. Infront, through its long-standing partnerships with some of the most important sports rights-holders, is top-connected in the global sports industry. It is best-positioned to actively support China in its bidding efforts for major sports events, as it is already involved in the planning, delivering, marketing and servicing of a broad array of top international events.”

In recent years, as Chinese urbanisation has slowed and the national economy has begun to stagnate slightly, Dalian has started to diversify away from the real estate market. In 2012, the firm acquired AMC Entertainment, the second biggest cinema chain in North America for $2.6bn. In January the group also took a $52m, 20 percent stake in Spanish football club Atletico de Madrid. Furthermore, the company is in the process of constructing an $8.2bn film studio, amusement park and real estate complex in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao.

Speaking about the deal, Xavier Robert, a Bridgepoint partner based in Paris, said “Infront is a scarce asset in its sector that has delivered a strong performance on the back of geographical expansion and a growing sports contract base to become a well-diversified premium sports marketing company. We wish it continued success with a new important shareholder.” Despite its exit from Infront, Bridgepoint remains committed to international sports. The firm remains invested in Dorna Sports, an international sports management business which holds a number of exclusive sporting promotion rights.

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Richard Summerfield

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