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China’s Wanda Appoints Sepp Blatter’s Nephew To Head New Sports Division

Philippe Blatter, nephew of scandal-hit soccer boss Sepp Blatter, has been named as head of the new sports division at China’s Dalian Wanda group.

Philippe Blatter has been appointed CEO of Wanda Sports Holding, a new division formed from the merger of Infront Sports & Media and World Triathlon Corporation, both of which Wanda has acquired in the last year. Philippe Blatter was president and CEO of Infront.

Wanda, which expanded from property development has become one of Asia’s major film companies and is targeting the wider leisure and entertainment market. It will face growing competition from other Chinese players including Alibaba, which set up its own sports division in September, and China Media Capital.

The establishment of Wanda Sports comes only a week after Wanda completed the $650 million purchase of WTC, which organizes the Ironman triathlon competitions.

Wanda Sports will be based on three core business pillars: spectator sports (media & marketing); participation sports (active lifestyle) and services (production, digital & service), according to a statement on Infront’s website. Wanda also acquired a 20% stake in Spanish soccer team Atletico Madrid at the end of last year, and earlier this year was in talks to buy Silvio Berlusconi’s interest in AC Milan.

Wanda Sports will have its operational headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, where Infront is currently based. The holding company will be based in China.

The active lifestyle business will be led by WTC chief executive Andrew Messick.

“The significance of establishing Wanda Sports is not only to integrate Wanda’s interests in sports, but also to truly expand and strengthen Wanda’s businesses in the industry,” said Wang Jianlin, Wanda’s founder and chairman.

“All valued partners and clients as well as millions of sports enthusiasts worldwide will benefit. The new structure will provide continuity and stability, a much enhanced service offering and strengthened resources in event development and delivery,” said Philippe Blatter.

Philippe Blatter has not been connected with the vote rigging scandals at soccer’s governing body FIFA, where his uncle Sepp Blatter is under suspension as president.

FIFA was, however, criticized for appointing Infront in 2011 as its agent to sell the TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in 26 Asian territories, including China.

Last month Infront revealed that the head of its Italian branch and two associates are under investigation for “alleged manipulation” over the sale of TV rights to the Italian Serie A soccer league. “Infront as a company is not facing a formal probe in these subject matters,” Infront said, and added that it was co-operating with the investigators.

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