PTO appoints Challenge Family CEO Zibi Szlufcik to Board of Directors

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PTO appoints Challenge Family CEO to its Board of Directors

Interesting. And – perhaps – a little confusing? The timing, certainly, is rather interesting.

Last week (full details HERE), the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) made public its proposal to enter into discussions with The Wanda Sports Group, the owners of IRONMAN, aimed at acquiring “its Ironman® and related mass participation assets.”

Yesterday, the PTO announced two new members to its Board of Directors, one of which is the CEO of Challenge Family, Zibi Szlufcik.

Boosting the knowledge of its Board with the CEO of a major, international triathlon organiser of long-distance races is certainly a public display of intent, a signal to the (far wider than triathlon) market that it is not, as many might/have assumed, simply a publicity stunt with no substance.

The alternative / tandem view is that Challenge and IRONMAN are ultimately the two biggest players in the market – IRONMAN certainly being by far the dominant one – that have hardly been hand-holding best buddies in the triathlon world. Just this week (HERE), the new Challenge St. Pölten race (until 2019, was for 13 years IRONMAN 70.3 St. Pölten) have issued a ‘We choose spirit’ statement, responding to the news that the new IRONMAN 70.3 Graz, Austria will be held on the same date, 24th May 2020. There have been many (far more aggressive) M-Dot versus Challenge ‘issues’ over the past decade and more.

If you were to read between the lines – which I am going to – it certainly opens open an alternative / parallel investment discussion for the PTO, should acquisition / investment be their desired route toward self-determination, and that route not being via the assets  of Ironman®.

The second appointment won’t generate as many (triathlon) headlines, but perhaps may be more significant. North Point Advisors are the financial advisors of the PTO – “a leading independent investment bank focused on providing financial advice on mergers and acquisitions and raising institutional capital to meet the growth objectives of our clients” – a business that, from their own website, has represented brands in more than $25billion of transaction value over the past 15 years.

The full announcement (below) confirms the appointment of North Point Principal, Jennifer Nimmo,  who has been with the company since their founding in 2004. Many years ago, I used to work in the ‘City’. While mergers and acquisitions was not my area or experience, those big city firms do not casually attach their name – as they did, very visibly, in the PTO letter to IRONMAN – to something they have not done due diligence on and have belief in. Reputational risk is a major consideration in that market. Based on that, the subsequent appointment / acceptance to the PTO Board of a senior member of their financial advisors will be of more significance outside of out triathlon bubble, than within it. When you are seeking investors to the tune, most probably, counted in hundreds of millions of dollars, that’s not insignificant.

Where is all this going? Is it going to go anywhere? I don’t know the answer to that, but if nothing else, the story perhaps has a few more ‘legs’ than many would have given it 10 days ago.



The Professional Triathletes Organisation today announced that it has appointed Zibi Szlufcik, CEO of CHALLENGEFAMILY, and Jennifer Nimmo, Principal at North Point Advisors, as members of its Board of Directors

Charles Adamo, Chairman of the PTO, commented “The PTO is fortunate that Zibi has agreed to serve on our Board. He brings a wealth of experience to the organisation, and for decades has been a huge supporter of professional triathletes.” Rachel Joyce, Co-President of the PTO stated, “Zibi was one of the industry’s leaders who encouraged the professionals to unify in the PTO and was there at its first meeting. He will be a valuable asset for the athletes as they progress towards self- determination.”

Szlufcik, based in Germany, has been CEO of CHALLENGEFAMILY GmbH since its founding in 2013 and has led it from a just a handful of races to now over 30 events in more than 20 countries. Szlufcik commented, “It is an honour to be joining the PTO Board. All our race directors and we at CHALLENGEFAMILY have always been big supporters of hard-working professionals, who achieve almost superhuman results. They are an inspiration to us all and it is a joy to celebrate their successes. I believe strongly that working together with the PTO is what will cause our sport to thrive.”

PTO / Professional Triathletes Organisation

Jennifer Nimmo started at North Point Advisors in 2004 and has been a Principal since 2010. Charles Adamo commented, “It is a pleasure to welcome Jennifer to our Board and have the commitment of North Point Advisors on an ongoing basis. They have been instrumental in structuring our business model and financial planning and it is assuring to know they will continue to be part of our organisation on an ongoing basis.”

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