Horse sport’s big hitters join forces for major expansion

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GEG will be making significant investments to the world renowned PBIEC venue.
GEG will be making significant investments in the world-renowned Palm Beach International Equestrian Center venue in Florida.

Florida’s Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) is being acquired by a partnership between two of equestrian sport’s biggest names.

Entities led by Andreas Helgstrand and Ludger Beerbaum, and Mark Bellissimo are teaming up to “invest in the globalisation of equestrian sport”.

Helgstrand is the CEO of Global Equestrian Group (GEG), which is co-owned by Beerbaum. GEG will acquire the Wellington-based Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, and “invest in the equestrian lifestyle initiatives” of Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), led by CEO Mark Bellissimo.

WEP’s largest partners, Bellissimo, Roger Smith, Lisa Lourie, Marsha Dammerman and Michael Stone, will co-invest in GEG. Bellissimo said that the collaboration meant that “opportunities abound to take the sport to a new level”.

The move has the approval of US Equestrian Federation CEO, Bill Moroney, who said: “As always, we are pleased to see continued investment in US equestrian sport. This significant commitment to world-class facilities, horse and rider welfare, and USEF and FEI competitions further validates the market’s demand, at all levels, for organized sport.”

PBIEC operates 16 competition arenas, 2500 stalls, and provides participants and spectators with a variety of restaurants, shopping, hospitality areas, and other facilities. The GEG initiative will launch major investments in all areas of the facility ensuring that PBIEC will continue to be the pre-eminent sport horse venue in the world with increased exposure in Europe, Asia, and South America. The purchase includes an 11-acre expansion of the showgrounds. To ensure continuity, the WEP partners required a 50-year deed restriction on the venue that guarantees USEF and FEI sanctioned shows on the property.

Helgstrand described the Winter Equestrian Festival and PBIEC as “fantastic brands within international equestrian sport”.

Ludger Beerbaum, pictured in 2015 on Chiara 222.
Ludger Beerbaum, pictured in 2015 on Chiara 222. © FEI/Dirk Caremans

“Together, we will strengthen the offering and create a global market leader spreading our passion for equestrian sport and lifestyle to new markets.”

Bellissimo and PBIEC have transformed Wellington into the world’s premier destination for equestrian enthusiasts, with competitions and events across more than 40 weeks every year. It is home to the Winter Equestrian Festival, spanning 13 weeks and is the world’s largest and longest-running equestrian sports event. Some 4000 families, 8000 horses, and 250,000 spectators from 43 countries converge on Wellington to compete for more than $US12 million in prize money.

A recent independent economic study highlighted the Winter Equestrian Festival’s annual economic impact on Palm Beach County of $US279 million of total expenditures and 150,000 bed nights. GEG is part of Waterland Private Equity, which manages a global investment portfolio greater than $US11 billion.

Bellissimo is preparing to announce a comprehensive strategy and a series of investments to elevate Wellington as the world’s premier equestrian lifestyle destination.

Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Hors Matiné during their silver-medal winning Kur performance at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen.
Andreas Helgstrand and the late Blue Hors Matiné during their silver-medal winning Kur performance at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen.

GEG is also active in other equestrian investments including Helgstrand Dressage, Ludger Beerbaum Stables, Helgstrand Jewellery, and equestrian apparel and accessories company Kingsland Equestrian. At present, the total revenue of these combined is $US180 million.

The acquisition means that GEG will now have event venues in the US, Germany, and Denmark. Beerbaum said the goal was to “enhance equestrian sport by providing superior venues and top sport so riders across the world can live out their passions and dreams”.

He said that the acquisition of PBIEC and the current expansion of Riesenbeck International in Germany gave the partnership “two top professional and attractive show grounds.”

GEG and WEP are evaluating further investment opportunities in Wellington including a new state-of-the-art Global Dressage Festival showgrounds.

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