By Matthew Miller
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's richest man Wang Jianlin has signed a partnership deal with basketball's international governing body (FIBA), the latest move by the commercial property billionaire to expand his Dalian Wanda business empire into sports and entertainment.
Wanda will be FIBA's worldwide exclusive partner for sale and marketing of worldwide sponsorship and licensing rights for FIBA events, including four basketball World Cups and their qualifiers, according to the partnership deal.
At a signing ceremony in Beijing on Thursday, Wang said he hoped the deal would help raise the quality of both international and Chinese basketball "to the next level".
Wanda is boosting its investment in athletic events, marketing and stadium construction as part of a broader effort to develop what it calls its "cultural industry" arm, which includes motion picture producer Legendary Entertainment and theater operator AMC Entertainment Holdings.
Film, theme parks, tourism and sports revenue last year represented about 18 percent of Wanda group's 290.1 billion yuan ($44 billion) in sales. Wang said he expects the division to grow into a core business.
Sports will play a critical role. China's government is seeking to transform the country's sports sector into a 5 trillion-yuan business by 2025. At Thursday's announcement, Wang said he wanted Wanda's operations to act as a "trailblazer" for China's national sports push.
Over the last 18 months, Wanda has sealed a series of high-profile sports investments. They include a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid and the purchase of the organizer of Ironman Triathlon races, World Triathlon Corp.
In March, Wanda became the first Chinese top level sponsor of FIFA, the world soccer governing body.
Last year, Wanda also forked out 1.05 billion euros ($1.18 billion) to buy Swiss sports marketing company Infront Sports & Media AG, which will spearhead the basketball alliance.
The FIBA deal comes as China gears up to host the men's basketball World Cup in 2019 for the first time. The partnership calls for the establishment of FIBA Marketing, a joint venture focused on developing national team basketball globally, and particularly in China, the two sides said.
"What Wanda brings us is their network and their ability to invest in the game," said, Patrick Baumann, FIBA Secretary General, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the signing ceremony.
Baumann declined to say exactly how much the agreement itself was worth, but said he hoped it would help raise FIBA marketing and media revenues for the four-year world cup period to over 1 billion euros within 15 years.
(Reporting by Matthew Miller; Additional reporting by Nicholas Heath; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)