Wanda Group announces investment in Club Atlético de Madrid to promote China’s grassroots football development
Wanda Group officially announced an investment of €45 million to acquire a 20% equity stake in Club Atlético de Madrid (“ATM”). The deal will give Wanda a seat on the club’s board of directors. This is the first time a Chinese company has invested in a top-flight European football club. The valuation agreed implies attractive multiples given the long-term growth potential of the club. Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin stated that the investment would help promote the development of “China’s Future Star Program” in Spain, and at the same time would support the overall expansion of football in China.
ATM is one of the world’s leading football clubs and has a long history of success. Atletico have won La Liga on ten occasions, were crowned La Liga champions in 2013-2014 and became UEFA Champions League finalists during the same season. ATM owns a football stadium and five training academies in Madrid and is considered very financially stable.
As part of the agreement, ATM will be responsible for drafting a plan specifically focused on the growth of Chinese grassroots football overseas, which will involve building a new youth training center to provide optimum facilities for young Chinese footballers studying in Spain. In addition, ATM will give high performing players from “China’s Future Star Program” equal opportunity to be selected in its teams. Furthermore, Wanda, will invite ATM to China each year to help promote European football.
Wang Jianlin, Chairman of Wanda Group, said of the partnership: “This investment will not only provide a golden opportunity for young Chinese players sent overseas by Wanda to be selected by leading European football clubs, it will also strengthen the quality of Chinese football and narrow the gap between the rest of the world.”
Having played a first hand role in the transformation of Chinese football in 1993, including the establishment of Dalian Wanda F.C., the nation's first professional football club, Wanda has a long affiliation with football. Dalian Wanda F.C. still holds a record unbeaten run of 55 matches without a defeat, making it one of China's most successful football clubs. Wanda left football in 1999, and returned once more in 2011 by signing an agreement with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) to support the revitalization of football in China. The most important part of this agreement was supporting overseas youth development at Spanish clubs such as ATM. At present, this agreement has been extended to promote grassroots football overseas for six more years, with a current total of 90 players and 30 new players joining the program each year. By 2017, Wanda aims to invest €20 million annually to support the development of 180 young Chinese players in Spain.