Li Ning, Sportswear Tycoon and Olympic Great, Forms Sports SPAC

Brendan Coffey
·2 min read

Olympic great-turned-sportwear tycoon Li Ning has filed today for a special purpose acquisition company. The business, Trinity Acquisition, wants to raise $250 million in an IPO to “capitalize on the China, consumer and sporting expertise” of its management, according to the prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Li Ning won six gymnastics medals—three gold, two silver and a bronze—at the 1984 Summer Olympics, earning him honor of lighting the torch at Beijing’s 1988 Olympics Games. Li “is considered by many in China to be a national hero, and brings unique insights as an Olympian and one of the greatest sports figures in China,” the prospectus states. After his athletic career, he displayed entrepreneurial prowess, forming the namesake sportwear brand Li-Ning in 1989. That business is publicly traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange and has a market capitalization of $17.5 billion.

The new business, Trinity, wants to find a global lifestyle brand that has compelling potential in China. “This universe [of targets] may include sports and sports-related brands,” according to the filing.

Joining Li in the executive ranks of Trinity is Daniel Kar Keung Tseung, the founder of LionRock Capital, an investment bank business that owns 31% of Serie A soccer club InterMilan. David Tse Young Chou, a Goldman Sachs veteran who led an investment with LionRock into Suning Sports, a leading sports media company in China, is also an executive. While acting as co-head of Goldman’s Asia special situations arm, Chou led investments into numerous other businesses, including Beijing Calories Technology, a provider of exercise and training videos with 140 million users. Tseung and Chou are co-CEOs of the SPAC, while Li is chairman of the board.

Former Bally Total Fitness CEO Lee Scott Hillman—now a board member of hardware store supplier Lawson Products—is on the board of directors, as are Jingsheng Huang, a China fintech executive; Ming Ming Anna Cheung, formerly head of Jardine Pacific, an Asia-based conglomerate; and Christian Karl Nothhaft, who specializes in investing in health and beauty companies with a China focus.

The Li-Ning brand itself has a niche with NBA player brands, including a ‘lifetime’ deal with Dwyane Wade and featuring shoe and gear lines from Jimmy Butler, C.J. McCollum, Fred VanVleet and R.J. Hampton.

The Trinity SPAC seeks to sell 25 million units in an IPO led by Goldman Sachs Asia. Each unit will consist of a share and a third of a warrant, redeemable for another share at $11.50. Li joins more than 100 other sports executives who have entered the red-hot SPAC market, according to data compiled by Sportico. If it is successful, the blank check business will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and have 24 months to acquire a target company.

An email seeking comment to representatives of Li wasn’t immediately returned.

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