It's been a long time coming. After a very tumultuous first half of 2011, K-1 has officially been sold. The rights to the K-1 brand have been purchased by Japanese real estate company Barbizon Co. Ltd. Details are still emerging, but it appears that Barbizon now owns the rights for events under the banner of K-1 including the Grand Prix, as well as the annual New Year's Eve show Dynamite!!.
Some of the other brands associated with K-1 were not included in the sale: Dream remains business as usual, while K-1 Koshien (their youth league) is now associated with one of their sponsors - Fields. Not mentioned in the deal in any way was K-1 MAX, which is the only K-1 brand to have actually produced a show in 2011. That brand seems to remain partially controlled by Japanese broadcast company TBS.
2011 has been a bad year for the long-standing company. After wrapping up the 2010 Grand Prix, stories quickly began surfacing of fighters owed significant amounts of money. Plans and press conferences were announced, then cancelled, with the last six months amounting to many promises of big things to come, but only one small K-1 MAX show actually taking place. Many insiders, including fighters and K-1 management, have stated that the company could not continue without a significant change, and that is exactly what has now happened.
This sale is huge news in the world of kickboxing, as K-1 has been the dominant name in the sport for almost 20 years. But without many details regarding the new owners yet going public, it's hard to speculate on how this will impact the sport. Will Barbizon look to continue producing shows using the same general format as K-1, or will they attempt a totally new model?
From all reports, what does seem clear is this - K-1 is not suddenly going to become a real estate company. It's likely that Barbizon is working with other investors who will be handling more of the actual operation of the new K-1. Who are those investors? For the moment, we'll have to wait and see.