By BOB ANDELMAN
Maddux Business Report
Ben Fertic was 14 the first time he ever heard of a triathlon. He and his brother, Cole, who is six years his senior, were watching ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” coverage of the running, biking and swimming event in Hawaii and it changed their lives.
“I was watching Julie Moss cross the finish line and we knew we wanted to do that race,” Fertic says.
Two years later, Cole led the way, running his first triathlon in 1984. Not that it was easy; Ben’s older brother was electrocuted as a teen and lost his right arm and right leg.
“When he did it, which was at that time unheard of, he was like, ‘Why don’t you do one? If I can do one, you should go do one.’” Fertic recalls.
He couldn’t resist the challenge and the CEO of Tampa-based World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) has been racing ever since. He’s also the guy who now negotiates and signs the company’s TV contracts, which includes the Ford Ironman World Championship held every October on Hawaii’s Big Island, plus three additional televised events on NBC and even more on the Vs. cable network. (There is also a live, 18-hour webcast of the Hawaii championship.)
There are more than two-dozen officially sanctioned, qualifying Ironman events held around the world, from Monaco to San Francisco and China to Lake Placid. Every November, Clearwater is host to the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship70.3 (a shortened version of the Hawaii triathlon) and St. Petersburg hosted its first IronKids National Triathlon Series event in June 2009.
His biggest competition, Fertic says, isn’t other triathlon organizers but televised football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis and golf. He’s competing for sponsorships and eyeballs.
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