World Triathlon Corporation
|Private equity portfolio company|
|Industry||Sport Event Management|
|Founded||1991 in Tarpon Springs, Florida|
|Founder||Valerie Silk, James Gills|
|Headquarters||Tampa Bay, Florida|
|Andrew Messick: CEO
Ben Fertic: President
|Products||Ironman Triathlon, Ironman Live, Iron Girl, Ironkids|
The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) is a for-profit corporation, owned by Dalian Wanda Group, that organizes, promotes and licenses the Ironman Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, and the 5150 series of triathlon races. WTC is also the owner of numerous "Ironman" related trademarks used both in connection with Ironman race series and in conjunction with various goods and services.
In 1990, Dr. James P. Gills, with the help of Lew Friedland, acquired and purchased the Hawaii Triathlon Corporation, owner of the Ironman Brand, for $3 million from Valerie Silk. With the Ironman brand, Gills established the World Triathlon Corporation with the intention of furthering the sport of triathlon and increasing prize money for triathletes. Ben Fertic, formerly Vice President of Information Systems, joined WTC in 2000 and was involved in the business operations and day-to-day decision making for WTC. Fertic became CEO of WTC in 2004.
During Fertic's tenure as VP, he created Ironman Live, an online presence of Ironman Triathlon, and transformed WTC into an event production company. In 2007, WTC undertook expansion in producing Ironman events internally, with the inaugural Ironman Louisville. This followed the launch of Ironman 70.3 events in Boise, Idaho and Providence, Rhode Island.
In 2008, World Triathlon Corporation was purchased by Providence Equity Securities for $85 million. Providence Equity is a private equity firm, of whom one board member is an Ironman athlete. CEO Ben Fertic remained at the helm of the business. The following year, in early in 2009, WTC announced the acquisition of Ironman events based in the United States, from North American Sports, a company founded by Canadian Graham Fraser. Employees from North American Sports were expected to remain and manage these events, which included Ironman Coeur d'Alene, Lake Placid, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, Ironman 70.3 California, and Ironman 70.3 Florida.
On May 31, 2011, WTC announced that Andrew Messick, who was previously the president AEG, would become CEO of the World Triathlon Corporation. Fertic would continue in his role in serving on the Board of Directors as well as serving in a newly created president position. Messick, who is an Ironman triathlon finisher himself, helped build and direct, among other things, the Tour of California cycling event.
On August 26, 2015, Chinese property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda announced that it would purchase WTC for $650 million, with plans to use the acquisition to begin the first international triathlon competition in China.
In addition to the North American Sports acquisition in 2009 WTC has acquired several other event management companies and races.
In February 2012 WTC purchased USM Events, owners of Australian triathlons in Geelong, Mooloolaba, and Noosa, as well as the Sydney World Triathlon Series (WTS) race. USM Events also owned and produced a full Ironman distance race in Cairns, Australia called Challenge Cairns. Challenge, a rival to the Ironman brand, did not wish to have WTC running one the Challenge family of races. As a result Challenge terminated its contract with USM and Challenge Cairns subsequently became Ironman Cairns. The purchase of USM Events expands WTC's Asia-Pacific triathlon market. The purchase would have placed WTC into International Triathlon Union racing with the Sydney WTS race, but government officials in New South Wales took the option of not extending an agreement to continue staging the Sydney event due to the ongoing logistical and financial investment required.
In June 2013, WTC purchased YWC Sports, a private company that organizes triathlons and endurance sport events in Denmark. YWC Sports was contracted by the Challenge Family to produce the long distance triathlon races Challenge Copenhagen and Challenge Aarhus. However, Challenge Family CEO Felix Walchshöfer did not wish to have WTC produce a Challenge licensed event and therefore terminated YWC's agreement stating that the sale to WTC constituted a breach of contract. As a result the Challenge Copenhagen race, which was scheduled to race in August 2013, would be rebranded as Ironman Copenhagen and 50 qualifying spots would be offered up for the 2013 Ironman World Championships. Challenge Aarhus was replaced by Ironman 70.3 Aarhus and debuted in June 2014.
Other acquisitions include:
- Optimum Sports Events (2015) - Owners of Challenge Vichy
- SuperFrog, Inc. (2015) - Multiple events including the Superfrog Triathlon.
- Firstwave Events, LLC. (2015) - Big Kahuna Triathlon and Santa Cruz Half Marathon
- Auckland Marathon (2014)
- Lifesport Properties Inc. (2014) - Owners of the Subaru Western Triathlon Series
- Tritlon Spain SL (2014) - Owners of Challenge Barcelona
- Columbia Triathlon Association, Inc. (2014) - An Ironman race licensee and owners of ChesapeakeMan
- XXtra Mile, LLC (2013) - Owners of the Danskin Triathlon Series, the events were rebranded under the IronGirl banner.
- 5430 Sports (2009) - Multiple events including the Boulder Peak Triathlon
- IronKids (2008) - Race series owned by the Sara Lee Corporation since 1985.
Event and product licensing
WTC holds the rights to the name "Ironman" for marketing purposes in association with contests consisting of swimming, biking, and running; which is used to license triathlon events around the world. The first events to take on Ironman licensing include events in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, all of which formed in the 1980s. Since then, Ironman event licensing has gone global, with the creation of the Ironman 70.3 series in 2005 and the 5150 series beginning in 2011.
The WTC licenses the Ironman and Ironman Triathlon logo and other related marks to various corporations for use in their product lines. An example is the licensing to Timex Group USA of the Ironman Triathlon logo for use in the Ironman Triathlon watch line that includes the Timex Ironman Datalink series of GPS type watches.
Former business ventures
In March 2010, World Triathlon Corporation announced the start of a triathlon publication called LAVA magazine. At its conception, the magazine was published by John Duke, former publisher of Triathlete Magazine and then Vice President of Global Sales and Media for WTC. LAVA built its initial subscription base from United States athletes who had entered in an Ironman branded event in 2010. The magazine produces 9 issues per year. The "Lava" name is in reference to the Hawaiian Island that the Ironman Championship is held on each year.
In 2011, the magazine received a Maggie Award from the Western Publishing Association for "Best Single Editorial Photograph in a Consumer Magazine." The photograph was of Craig Alexander in LAVA’s inaugural issue.
The magazine was started under former World Triathlon Corporation CEO Ben Fertic. Under CEO Andrew Messick, WTC sought to focus solely on the Ironman brand of races and move away from publishing. In May 2012, WTC sold LAVA to a group of investors that included LAVA publisher John Duke, Active.com's CEO Dave Alberga and president Matt Landa, as well as former hedge fund manager Matthew Michelsen. Additionally, as part of the sale, Heather Gordon became the new publisher. The sale also coincided with the end of a two-year ban that prevented LAVA from being sold on the newsstand for two years. That ban was the result of a dispute and settlement between Duke's previous employer Triathlete Magazine, its parent Competitor Group, Inc., and WTC. After the sale LAVA will receive a preferred relationship with WTC as the official publication of Ironman, which will grant the magazine unique access to Ironman consumers.
On October 27, 2010, World Triathlon Corporation put out a press release announcing the creation of an athlete membership program called Ironman Access. This program was to offer advanced registration to its Ironman events before entries would be open for registration to the general public. Advance race registration for members of Ironman Access would be open one week prior to the event’s general entry registration date. Members of this program would also receive a number of other benefits, such as a free subscription to its LAVA magazine and discounts at its shopironman.com website. The cost of membership into the Ironman Access program was $1,000 USD. However, a day later, in response to comments the WTC received via email and from comments received through Facebook, Ben Fertic, then CEO of WTC, appeared in an online video announcing that Ironman Access program would be rescinded, stating: "If you guys think we're wrong, we're wrong."  As explained in the video by Fertic, the purpose of the program was to free up 2,500 to 3,000 entry slots that go unused by individuals who sign up for multiple Ironman events.
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- "China's Dalian Wanda Buys Ironman Triathlon Brand for $650M". The New York Times. August 26, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Empfield, Dan (12 March 2012). "It's now Ironman Cairns!". Slowtwitch.com. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
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- "Dextro Energy Triathlon Sydney Comes To An End". International Triathlon Union. July 9, 2012. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
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- "Ironman Announces Two New 70.3 Events In California". Triathlete.com. January 15, 2015. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
- "Iron Girl Celebrates 10th Anniversary With Exciting Additions To The 2013 Event Series". prnewswire.com. February 26, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
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- "Lava Magazine: Building a Power Foods Pantry: Whole Grains". World Triathlon Corporation. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
- "2011 Maggie Winners". Western Publishing Association. May 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- "LAVA Accepts Major Magazine Award". World Triathlon Corporation. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- Empfield, Dan (May 17, 2012). "WTC Sells Lava Magazine". Slowtwitch.com. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- Frothingham, Steve (May 17, 2012). "WTC sells Lava magazine to investors". Bicycle Retailer. Retrieved May 18, 2012.
- "Ironman Access: New Athlete Membership Program". World Triathlon Corporation. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2010.
- "Ironman Access". World Triathlon Corporation. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2010.[dead link]
- Empfield, Dan (31 October 2010). "WTC incepts, rescinds Access program". Slowtwitch.com. Retrieved 1 November 2010.
- "Ironman says ‘We screwed up’ and cancels/refunds Ironman Access". DC Rainmaker. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2011.