Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin is on the verge of acquiring influential sports marketing giants Infront, according to reports in Italy on Wednesday.
Wang recently hit the headlines when he bought a 20 percent stake in Spanish champions Atletico Madrid and is set to bolster his expanding football portfolio by acquiring Infront, La Corriere della Sera said.
Infront, a sports marketing company based in Zug, Switzerland and directed by Philippe Blatter — the nephew of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter — handles the media and marketing rights for many international sports events.
The report gave few precise details of the supposed deal but said Infront’s parent company, Bridgepoint, was “on the verge of selling Infront to Dalian Wanda in the coming days”.
Wang is a known to be a diehard football fan and his Wanda Group greatly increased its profile in China after Wang bought a Dalian football club in 1994, renamed it after the firm, and transformed it into the strongest team in China.
The Infront deal, if confirmed, would see Wang take control of the television rights for Italy’s Serie A, which has fallen out of favour in recent years amid the rise in popularity of rival leagues in England, Spain and Germany.
Blatter has in the past come under criticism after FIFA’s decision to award the sale of World Cup TV rights in a number of Asian countries for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Infront.
Wang, who is number 42 on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people with a fortune estimated at $18 billion, is expected to invest 45 million euros ($52 million) into the Atletico coffers for his share of the club.