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Alibaba gets in the game with new sports company

September 9, 2015

Chinese online giant Alibaba on Wednesday set up a new company to focus on professional sports, it said in a statement, as it seeks new business areas beyond e-commerce.

Alibaba Sports Group, majority owned by Alibaba Group, will use its parent’s e-commerce ecosystem to participate in businesses such as sports media, events and ticketing, the statement said.

It aims to “transform the China sports industry” and “bring greater and better products and services to consumers, sports participants and sports fans alike,” said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang, who will also be chairman of the new sports company.

Alibaba’s partners in the venture include founder Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital and Internet company Sina — operator of the popular Weibo, or microblog, platform as well as news and sports websites.

In an earlier sports venture, Alibaba paid 1.2 billion yuan ($188 million) for a stake in Chinese football club Guangzhou Evergrande last year.

Alibaba is not the only major Chinese company expanding into sports. Two weeks ago property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group announced it would buy the organiser of the Ironman extreme endurance contests for $650 million.

Earlier this year Dalian spent more than a billion euros on Swiss sports marketing group Infront — which holds some broadcasting rights to the football World Cup — and took a 20 percent stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid.

The Alibaba announcement came a day before it is scheduled to host an event with US collegiate sports league PAC-12.

The new company has tapped Zhang Dazhong, former vice president of state-owned Shanghai Media Group, as chief. Zhang is credited with playing a crucial role in the set-up of SMG’s interactive television subsidiary BesTV.

New York-listed Alibaba’s Taobao platform holds more than 90 percent of the consumer-to-consumer market in China, while its Tmall platform is believed to command more than half the Chinese market for business-to-consumer transactions.

The company is also making in-roads into entertainment, investing in its first Hollywood film “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”, according to a separate statement, which gave no value.

Alibaba Pictures Group is acting as promotional partner in China with Paramount Pictures for the film, which debuted in Chinese theatres on Tuesday, it said.


Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.