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Tampa’s Ironman Group sold to New York company in $730 million deal

The buyer is family-run Advance, with holdings in media, entertainment, technology, communications and education..

TAMPA — The Tampa-based Ironman Group is changing hands again.

This time the buyer is Advance, a family-run New York company with holdings in media, entertainment, technology, communications and education.

The price is $730 million, according to seller Wanda Sports Group Co., based in Beijing, China. Wanda bought the Ironman brand for $650 million in 2015 from Providence Equity Partners. The latest sale is expected to close this spring.

The Ironman’s global headquarters will remain in Tampa, where its 230 employees work out of the Tampa Bay Park business complex on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, east of Raymond James Stadium.

Related: Global company Ironman calls Tampa home

From its first race on Oahu, Hawaii, in 1978 — 15 racers entered, 12 finished — Ironman’s business has grown into a portfolio of events that include the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 triathlons, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series and the Epic Series of mountain bike races. More than 1 million athletes a year participate in 235-plus Ironman events in over 50 countries.

The company has a long history in the Tampa Bay area. In 1989, Dr. James Gills, an eye surgeon, real estate developer and serious triathlete, bought the Ironman brand for $3 million, bringing the headquarters to his home town of Tarpon Springs. In 2008, Gills sold it for an undisclosed amount to Providence Equity Partners and the company moved to Tampa.

In 2018, Ironman announced plans to add 70 new jobs paying an average of at least $57,163 a year to its 160-member workforce in Tampa, thanks to $350,000 in economic development incentives from the state of Florida, Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.

As part of the latest transaction, Orkila Capital of New York City will co-invest in the Ironman Group. Orkila managing partner Jesse Du Bey, who led the 2008 purchase of Ironman when he was managing director at Providence Equity Partners, will rejoin Ironman’s board of directors.

“We remain confident in our future, our focus and objectives are unchanged, and we are ready to face the opportunities and challenges ahead,” Ironman Group chief executive officer Andrew Messick said in an announcement released through Advance. “Together with Advance and Orkila, we will navigate through the turbulent and uncertain period in front of us and continue to deliver the exceptional experiences for which we’re known.”

Advance owns Condé Nast magazines, Newhouse newspapers and American City Business Journals, whose divisions include the Tampa Bay Business Journal. Advance also is among the largest shareholders in Charter Communications, Discovery and Reddit.

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