SBJ/July 18-22, 2011/Events and Attractions

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  • Venture capital firm backs new triathlon series

    Another private equity firm is diving into the triathlon space. Leonard Green & Partners, which controls $9 billion in investments, is backing a new group of races called the HITS Triathlon Series.

    The new series enters a market dominated by the World Triathlon Corp. — operators of the popular Ironman triathlon series — which is owned by Providence Equity, a $23 billion private equity firm.

    “It’s a big sport, it’s a big country — we think there is more than enough room in triathlon for more than one operator,” said John Danhakl, managing partner for LG&P.

    The HITS series comprises 13 two-day events, and each event features five individual triathlon races, ranging from Open (100-yard swim, three-mile bike, one-mile run) up through Sprint, Olympic, Half and Full (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). The HITS series will kick off with an event in Palm Springs, Calif., on Dec. 3.

    The WTC holds triathlons worldwide; representatives from the World Triathlon Corp. declined to comment for this story.

    The HITS series is the brainchild of CEO and President Tom Struzzieri, who also operates the successful HITS series of equestrian events. Since 2005, LG&P has invested $100 million in the equestrian events, a representative said.

    Struzzieri said that each event will operate on an approximate budget of $500,000, and that the total cost of the series would be close to $10 million. Sources familiar with the triathlon industry pegged each Ironman event in the $750,000 to $1.25 million range per race.

    New York-based Leverage Agency will sell sponsorships and manage media and marketing for the HITS series.

    Struzzieri said the bundling of multiple triathlons around a single event should give the HITS races a financial advantage. Registration fees for the HITS races range from $90 for the Sprint to $600 for the Full, which is comparable to prices for WTC events.
    Struzzieri predicts each event will attract roughly 1,500 racers. Ironman races allow for anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 participants.

    “If we only wind up with 300 or 500 we won’t be surprised or disappointed,” Struzzieri said. “We realize it’s not going to be a profitable situation these first couple of years.”

    Struzzieri said he developed the idea after learning the 2012 Ironman New York City race sold out in 11 minutes. “I think some people might see it as a positive that we’re not an Ironman,” Struzzieri said.

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