The Enduring Fight Over the First Ironman Triathlon - The New York Times

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On an October night in 1979, a Navy man named John Collins rode his Triumph motorcycle over to the offices of a Honolulu health club. He brought nothing but a box of paperwork.

Collins, credited with starting a quirky competition called the Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon, had just been reassigned to the mainland. He desperately needed someone to run the third edition of the event. The first two had 15 competitors each.

He handed the box to Hank Grundman and his wife, Valerie Silk.

Inside that box was what now might be considered a billion-dollar idea.

"No money changed hands,” Judy Collins, John’s wife, said in a recent email exchange. “No papers were signed. John handed our box of triathlon paperwork to Grundman." . . .

It was Silk, Grundman’s wife at the time, who spun the contents of that box into gold. Ironman grew, exponentially and steadily, into the world’s most iconic test of endurance and one of the globe’s premier sports brands. It is now owned by a Chinese conglomerate called Dalian Wanda Group, which paid $650 million for it in 2015. Ironman puts on more than 260 races in 44 countries, with 680,000 annual participants.