China’s Wanda agrees deal with world basketball federation


BEIJING (AP) — China’s largest private property developer, the Wanda Group, has teamed up with basketball’s international governing body in a multimillion-dollar marketing deal as it expands its global presence in sports.

Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin and FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann said Wanda subsidiary Infront Sports & Media will exclusively sell and market the federation’s global sponsorship and licensing rights for FIBA’s Basketball World Cup events up to 2033.

The alliance will also seek to develop China’s national team and the grassroots game in the country, which is hosting the 2019 Basketball World Cup tournament.

Teams participating in the 2019 event will stay in Wanda-owned hotels, while the conglomerate — which also owns cinemas, shopping complexes and entertainment parks — will promote the tournament throughout its properties, Baumann said. He declined to disclose financial details of the sponsorship agreement but said its value was in the “nine digits” and the financial boost would help FIBA break the 1 billion euro ($1.229 billion) revenue mark.

President Xi Jinping has prioritized developing China’s national teams and sees the global sports industry as a platform to showcase China’s expanding international influence.

Speaking alongside Baumann and Infront CEO Philippe Blatter on Thursday at a hotel in eastern Beijing, Wang pledged that his company would be on the vanguard of the national push.

“We need to promote China’s sports industry and our nation has launched a very ambitious plan,” said Wang, who also recently launched a new theme park in central China to compete against the new Disneyland resort in Shanghai — a rivalry he describes in nationalistic terms.

Wang, China’s richest man, estimated that in less than 10 years, the sports industry in China will be worth 5 trillion yuan ($770 billion) and said he would launch a series of new sporting events, including 3-on-3 basketball tournaments to tap into the booming market.

Sports is just one of several areas of expansion for Wanda, which has also made forays into Hollywood, where it has purchased a film studio and a cinema chain.

Wanda’s sports division was bolstered by its $1.2 billion acquisition in 2015 of Infront, a Swiss sports marketing firm headed by Blatter, the nephew of the Sepp Blatter, the disgraced former head of the international soccer federation.

Last year, it also bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid for 45 million euros and the company that owns the Ironman triathlon brand and race series for $650 million, forecasting increasing demand in China for the sport.

Wanda is also a major sponsor of the FIFA World Cup.