May 13, 2015 / 11:20 AM / 2 years ago

Alibaba, Wanda heads' investment firms lead $129 mln fundraising in LeTV sports firm

Wang Jianlin, chairman of Wanda commercial properties, attends a ceremony during the debut of the company at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange December 23, 2014. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin and an investment firm founded by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Jack Ma took part in a 800 million yuan ($129 million) funding round for a little-known sports entertainment company backed by local tech firm LeTV.

The funding, conducted in two parts, valued LeTV Sports at about 2.8 billion yuan ($451.37 million), Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp Beijing (LeTV) said in a statement on Wednesday.

Yunfeng Capital, a private equity company established by Ma, as well as Wanda Investment, a firm controlled by Wang, the chairman of Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co Ltd, were the lead investors, it added. LeTV Sports produces and broadcasts sports events including football, basketball, tennis and golf.

The investment is the latest into sports for both Ma and Wang, two of China’s wealthiest businessmen. The sector has seen a boom in private investment after receiving vocal support from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“With the favorable policies from the government and outstanding executive team of LeTV Sports, it is natural for us to invest in companies like LeTV Sports,” said Kan Zhidong, president of venture capital firm Fortune Link, another investor who took part in the latest funding round.

Prometheus Capital, a private equity fund directed by Wang’s son, was also involved, the company said.

Last June, Alibaba paid $192 million for a 50 percent stake in Chinese football Guangzhou Evergrande after a speedy deal hatched over a few drinks between Ma and Evergrande’s chairman Xu Jiayin.

Dalian Wanda has also been heavily investing in entertainment and sports. In February, Wanda agreed to buy Swiss sports marketing firm Infront Sports & Media AG for 1.05 billion euros ($1.18 billion).

Reporting by Paul Carsten and Matthew Miller in BEIJING and Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Editing by Miral Fahmy

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