Michael Ma, an NBA veteran of 13 years, has been named CEO of WME-IMG’s new China subsidiary, with the goal of expanding the company’s sport and entertainment reach in the country.
In July this year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship was acquired by by entertainment gian WME-IMG, for more than US$4 billion.
Ma spent the past 13 years with the NBA where he played a pivotal role in developing the organisation’s presence in China. In his new role, he will be based in Shanghai, leading WME-IMG’s efforts to advance its growth in the country.
“Michael brings not only a deep knowledge of the Chinese market, but also incredible experience in cultivating brands within China through his work with the NBA,” Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, Co-CEOs, WME-IMG said in a statement.
“We’re looking forward to working alongside Michael to expand our current business in China while creating new opportunities for our clients and partners in one of our fastest growing markets.”
The move comes as talk of a UFC China event gains momentum. In Hong Kong last month, WME-IMG officials said a Shanghai event is slated for 2017.
In a statement, WME-IMG confirmed it will now look to expand into new entertainment and sports areas on behalf of properties like UFC.
WME-IMG’s presence in China has spanned several decades and includes representing leading athletes like Li Na, managing professional golf and tennis events including the WGC HSBC Champions and Shenzhen Open and operating mass events including The Color Run and Tough Mudder.
The group is also engaged in negotiating media rights on behalf of sports entities such as the Chinese Super League and a runs a joint venture with state run TV CCTV to develop and promote sporting events.
Formed in June 2016 through a Sequoia Capital China-led investment group that includes Tencent, FountainVest Partners and Focus Media, WME-IMG China is focused on advancing the company’s growth in the country across sports and entertainment.
“Michael will provide great leadership to the WME | IMG team in China as they look to grow the company’s footprint there,” said Mr. Neil Shen, Founding & Managing Partner, Sequoia Capital China. “Sequoia Capital China is excited to draw on our knowledge of the market to lend support and to help accelerate this growth.”
“Along with Focus Media, our partner in this investment, FountainVest is looking forward to working with Michael and the WME | IMG team to identify new and exciting ways to reach consumers through sports and entertainment,” echoed Mr. George Chuang, Partner and Managing Director, FountainVest Partners.