LONDON, United Kingdom — Endurance sports company Spartan has acquired Tough Mudder UK following a period of uncertainty for the business, as it continues its global expansion.
The British brand, which found its future hanging in the balance after going into administration last month, will now continue to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Spartan, as it enters its tenth year of events.
“We’re proud to welcome Tough Mudder UK to the Spartan brand umbrella,” commented Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena. “The company’s dedicated team has built an incredible, passionate community and we’re excited to support their efforts to continue to transform lives.”
Once billed as one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, boasting a steady rise in registrations from 2009 to 2013 — where it attracted more than 4 million participants — in 2015 obstacle course races saw a 30 percent decline in participation, and the market is yet to recover.
Despite the category’s downwards trajectory, Spartan claims to have seen its participation grow by approximately 300 percent since 2016, with its turnover more than doubling. Tough Mudder, meanwhile, says more than 2.5m people have taken part in its events since 2010 — demonstrating continued demand for the sport.
Behind the scenes, however, Tough Mudder has been going through some challenges of its own, with the company alleged to have lost money every year, except for 2015.
With the company’s finances in trouble, last year it began exploring the sale of its US, Canadian, UK and German businesses, to rival Spartan. However, Spartan alleges the deal was blocked by co-founder Will Dean after he made himself a director of the UK company.
Then in January 2020, co-founder Guy Livingstone filed a lawsuit claiming Tough Mudder’s lender, Active Network had caused the company to breach its obligations to him. This he said, had left him suffering losses of more than $4m.
With sales of Tough Mudder’s tickets suspended amid the ongoing dispute, the company fell into administration before a deal with Spartan was eventually agreed.
According to Spartan, Tough Mudder UK employees are now back to work and planning for the 2020 Tough Mudder season, which kicks off on April 17th in Finsbury Park, London.
Speaking of the news, Tough Mudder’s managing director Giles Chater said: “Spartan’s dedication to wellness, endurance sports, transformation, and community is exactly what we need to deliver our vision and we could not be happier to join their family of brands.”
Adding: “We’ve been impressed with strong sales in Europe over the past couple of weeks and know that our community will share our excitement with this news heading into the 2020 Tough Mudder season.”
For now, Spartan says it’s still actively engaged in discussions to acquire Tough Mudder US, which it hopes to complete within the month. And, as it forges ahead with global expansion, the company is also focused on getting obstacle course racing recognised as an Olympic sport. A deal Spartan founder Joe De Sena hopes to have in the bag by the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics.
“Look at some of the events in the Olympics and you tell me if this makes a good fit or not. Many of the events at most have 5-10,000 athletes around the globe, right – just the Spartan brand has 1.3 million per year, ” he told Reuters in a Skype interview, in December.
“This is very powerful because the Olympics has an issue where they need sports that are going to attract the younger people thus parkour, thus surfing, skateboarding, climbing, breakdancing – so this is a sport that will bring the eyeballs, and it will bring the feet too,” he added.
If he can make it happen, obstacle course racing has the potential to become a much more lucrative market.