A Chinese real estate and entertainment conglomerate headed by Asia’s richest man has appointed the nephew of suspended FIFA chief Sepp Blatter as head of its sports division.
Philippe Blatter’s promotion by Wanda Group is part of its efforts to break into the global sports market as China looks forward to hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics and a potential World Cup bid.
Wanda paid 1.05 billion euros for Infront Sports and Media — a Swiss sports marketing group headed by Blatter — in February and has since bought the World Triathlon Corporation.
Blatter will head up a business unit handling Wanda’s consolidated sports assets, Infront said in a statement.
The move will “expand and strengthen Wanda’s businesses in the industry, while at the same time grasping the rapidly growing opportunities in the Chinese sports market”, Wanda chief executive officer Wang Jianlin said in the statement, dated Wednesday.
“We want to truly impact the development of sport around the world.”
Infront is based in Zug, Switzerland, and handles the media and marketing rights for many international sports events.
Wanda also owns a stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid.
Blatter’s uncle, Sepp, is the target of a criminal investigation by Swiss prosecutors over possible mismanagement at FIFA and a $2 million payment made in 2011 to his would-be successor, UEFA boss Michel Platini.
In 2011, FIFA under Sepp Blatter appointed Infront to handle the sale of Asian TV rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, raising accusations of nepotism denied by both FIFA and Infront.
Hiring relatives of powerful figures is common in China, where networks of influence cut across political and business lines.
Wang himself has confirmed that an investment company owned by President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law owned shares in one of Wanda’s subsidiaries.
The comments came after the New York Times alleged that friends and relatives of China’s top leadership made more than $1 billion from investments in Wanda’s commercial property and cinema companies.